Chinese New Year (Chun Jie)
The Chinese New Year is the most important festival among Chinese communities. It is also called the Lunar Year or the Spring Festival. Its celebration has its roots in customs and traditions passed down through ages. This holiday falls on the first day of the Chinese calendar. The days always vary and fall between late January and early February. This variation occurs because the Chinese follow the lunisolar calendar. In contrast, the rest of the world uses the Gregorian calendar.
On New Year’s Day, schools, businesses and offices close down for the holidays. Festivities go on for fifteen days. Certainly, this also makes the Spring Festival China’s longest holiday.
In the year 2019, Chinese New Year’s Day will be on 5th February. Http://www.chinesenewyears.info/chinese-new-year-calendar.php further gives the dates for Chinese New Year in the coming years.
Activities before and during Spring Festival
Before the New Year sets in, the Chinese prepare for it. To begin with, they shop for fashion, foodstuff, gifts and décor to use over the holidays. Also, they purchase red envelopes or hand-make them.
Similarly, most of them groom themselves in preparation. Likewise, they clean their houses thoroughly. Unwanted items, dead plants, clutter and all trash are usually taken out. This practice apparently creates room for good luck in their houses.
When the houses are clean they decorate them. Most noteworthy, common decorations used are upside down Fu, Dui Lian, lanterns, paint, paper cuttings, door gods and neon lights. Moreover, all decorations come in red and gold in colours. These are colours known to attract luck and prosperity. Even more, these decorations have the zodiac sign of the year as well as messages of hope and goodwill.
Additionally, there is a ticket booking frenzy in all transport terminals. The Chinese travel back home to celebrate the New Year with their families and close relations. For this reason, travel is on the rise and becomes expensive. Bus stations, train stations and airports are usually very busy. The Chinese New Year causes the largest human migration in the world. Most travel in order to get home before or on New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s Eve
The New Year’s Eve begins by paying tribute to the ancestors. They burn incense while praying and communicating with their gods and the deceased. Ancestor worship brings good luck to the family members. Members kneel in front of a shrine. Additionally, they offer sacrifices in form of dry foodstuff, joss sticks and joss papers. This implies that the ancestors eat before the rest of the family.
After worship, the reunion dinner follows. All present members gather around a table and share an array of homemade meals. Each meal served at the dinner has a symbolic meaning. However, fish and dumplings are a must have in every meal eaten over Spring Festival. They are a source of fortune. They chat and make merry during dinner. Alcohol is also served. Sometimes, New Year cakes serve as dessert. The cakes are made using of glutinous rice flour and sugar.
Shou Sui follows after dinner. Family members stay up late in anticipation of the New Year. Besides that, this practice seems to lengthen the lives of ageing family members. They do this while chatting, making stories or watching the New Year’s Gala on CCTV.
The New Year sets in with merry at midnight. Firecrackers and fireworks fill the still air. This practice wards off all evil spirits. Traditionally, the first person to launch a firework gains good luck.
On New Year’s Day, families and friends visit each other. They offer new year greetings, good wishes and give red envelopes.
Festivities follow for two weeks until the end of the spring festival. During these days, public places hold performances by troupes and lion dancers. Similarly, married couples go and visit their wives’ families. These are days to visit and catch up with distant relatives and other friends too.
The fifteenth day marks the end of Spring Festival. On this day, the Chinese celebrate the Lantern Festival. The first full moon of the first lunar month appears on this day. Lantern fairs are usually held in temples at night. Lit paper lanterns are a common sight in public places. Some have riddles inscribed on them for people to unravel. Likewise, others have messages of hope and prosperity. These lanterns are either sent flying in the air. Others float on water bodies such as pools, rivers, lakes and seas. Yuan Xiao is the food eaten on this day. It contains glutinous rice balls filled with beans, fruits or peanuts.
After the lantern festival, life gets back to normal. Schools, businesses and offices resume operations. Also, people travel back to the cities and carry on with their regular activities.