Just when you thought that the New Year festivities were over, the Chinese New Year rears its head. This is also known as the Spring Festival and this year it falls on February 19th, with celebrations lasting until February 25th. This is a festival that has been taking place for more than 4,000 years and it is one of the most important in Chinese culture.
Whole families come together for this festival and it is not uncommon for Chinese people living in other parts of the world to return to China for the event or for them to take the week off to enjoy the festivities in full.
Due to the age of the festival, there are plenty of legends that have developed around it. One describes the year as a monster that was cruel and ate an animal each day, including humans, leading to humans hiding when the year came out. They discovered that this monster was frightened of red and fireworks, so they used both during the festival to keep the monster away. Preparations for the Chinese New Year begin in advance of the festivities, with the calendar marking out tasks such as cleaning the home and preparing meat.
Other traditions linked with the calendar include the purchase of new clothes for everyone in the home, particularly for children. You will also need to have red scrolls with poetry on them – couplets – to be pasted at the gate to the home and you can put images of Fu – a Chinese character – on your door.
The traditional celebrations also include things that you should not do. You should not use words in conversations such as ‘death’, ‘broken’, ‘illness’ or ‘sickness’, as it is believed that they can bring you bad luck for the year ahead. Some people believe that the rice barrel should be full because an empty barrel could indicate hardships for the year, and people should avoid medications on the day of the New Year because this could mean that they will be sick for the whole year.
How can you celebrate Chinese New Year? In the US there will be festivities in a number of cities and you can go along to see one of the many parades that take place. These will feature brightly colored floats, vibrant costumes and fireworks, and many other attractions.
There may be lion or dragon dances in your area. Fun runs and walks in Chinatown districts are also common, and there may be street fairs. Some organizations will put on special competitions, and Chinatown areas are always bustling with activity at this time of the year. You may find that it is customary for children to be given gifts, which are normally gifts of money wrapped in red and gold.
Chinese New Year is a great time for you to find out about other cultures and traditions. With so much happening across the country, there is no reason for you to miss out on the festivities.
– Lance Grooms