Chinese Culture - Spring Festival
Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the most important of
the traditional Chinese holidays. Chinese months are reckoned by the lunar
calendar, with each month beginning on the darkest day. New Year festivities
traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the
fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. Chinese New Year's Eve is known as Chuxi.
It literally means "Year-pass Eve". And the 15th day of the month is called
This was a time for the Chinese to congratulate each other and themselves on having passed through another year, a time to finish out the old, and to welcome in a new year. The 2009 date for Chinese New Year is January 26.
The Chinese calendar follows a 12-year pattern with each year named after an animal. The legend is said that the Jade Emperor invited all of the animals to join him for a New Year celebration, but only 12 animals turned up. To reward the animals that did come, the Jade Emperor named a year after each of them in the order that they arrived, starting with the Rat, followed by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
It is believed that the people born in the each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality. 2009 is Ox year, and those born in ox years tend to be painters, engineers, and architects. They are stable, fearless, obstinate, hard-working and friendly.
According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with a fight against a mythical beast called the Nian or "Year" in Chinese. Nian would come on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn't attack any more people.
One time, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, the Nian never came to the village again.
The biggest event of any Chinese New Year's Eve is the dinner every family will have. A dish usually consisting of fish will appear on the tables of Chinese families. It is for display for the New Year's Eve dinner. This meal is comparable to a Christmas dinner in the West.
In northern China, it is customary to make dumplings after dinner and have it around midnight. Dumplings symbolize wealth because their shape is like a Chinese tael. By contrast, in the South, it is customary to make a new year cake (Niangao) after dinner and send pieces of it as gifts to relatives and friends in the coming days of the new year. Niangao literally means increasingly prosperous year in, year out.
Red Packets & Gift Exchange:
At Chinese New Year parents, family and friends give money to children in red envelopes. The red color symbolizes good luck, and the amount of money can be anything from a small coin to a larger amount.
In addition to red packets, which are usually given from elder to younger, small gifts are also exchanged between friends or relatives during Chinese New Year. Gifts are usually brought when visiting friends or relatives at their homes. Common gifts include fruits, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, candies, or some other small gift
The lantern festival is held on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Some of the lanterns may be works of art, painted with birds, animals, flowers, zodiac signs, and scenes from legend and history. People hang glowing lanterns in temples, and carry lanterns to an evening parade under the light of the full moon.
One can even see these celebrations around the world in various cities that have large Chinese immigrant populations. Check out this grand abundantly colourful celebration in a Chinatown near you!