The Chinese New Year, indeed, is one of the most vibrant and vivacious festivals celebrated by the people of China, no matter in which part of the world they live in. Traditionally, this festival is also known as the 'Lunar New Year'. During this time, the entire China seems to dawn the shade red, as this color is considered highly auspicious in the Chinese culture. Enveloped in tales of myth, mystery and ancient traditions, this festival paints an exuberating picture of rich cultural heritage and glorious history of China. Today, these 15-day New Year celebrations have also come to be known as the Spring Festival, since the Chinese New Year is celebrated at the onset of spring.
When Is It Celebrated?
The date of Chinese New Year is based on the ancient Chinese calendar, lunisolar, which is a marvelous combination of the lunar and solar year. This is the reason why as per the Georgian Calendar, the date of Chinese New Year changes every year. However, the date of this festival always falls every year between January 21 and February 20, as this time marks the first month of Chinese lunar calendar. Every year, the Chinese calendar is branded with one of the 12 ruling animals in Chinese astrology, which are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. These are basically the Chinese zodiacs that are celebrated with great zeal during the celebrations of Chinese New Year.
During the 15-day revelry of the New Year, the Chinese pay homage to their ancestors, families organize get-togethers and enjoy each other's company, and out-of-touch relatives catch up with one another. This spectacular festival is a joyous occasion to pay tribute to the heavenly deities and enjoy elaborate feasts in the company of friends and family members. The preparations for the New Year celebrations start well in advance. People begin to clean up their homes to sweep away all the bad luck, with some going as far as painting their doors and windows in red and hang ornamental paper scrolls, lanterns and numerous other stunning decorations to welcome the approaching year. New clothes and shoes are bought and worn throughout the festivities.
Other traditional features of the celebrations include gifting of red packets containing money to the youngsters, by the elders of the family. It is believed that this ceremony brings luck to the giver in the coming year. During the New Year revelry, the night sky comes alive with magnificent displays of fireworks and firecrackers, as it is a common belief in Chinese culture that their noise and light frightens away the evil spirits. Thus, they are considered the harbingers of fortune as well as prosperity. Exhilarating lion and dragon dances, extravagant floral decorations and vivacious farmers markets are a common sight that one can see across the vast length and breadth of China during the New Year festivities.
On New Year's Eve, special traditional feasts are prepared, which includes exquisite Chinese dishes made of fish. Besides this, dumplings and Niangao (glitinous cake) are also important features of this dinner, which includes many other mouthwatering dishes as well. On the last day of the 15-day festivities, the grand Lantern festival is celebrated, traditionally known as Shang Yuan Festival. On this day, beautifully tapered colorful candles are used to decorate the houses and groups of families walk around the streets carrying candles in their hands, wishing a happy New Year to one and all.
Origins of Chinese New Year
Well, as per history, almost 2,000 years ago, a mighty emperor of the Han Dynasty declared the initiation of the Chinese lunar calendar with the first month and since then, the Chinese New Year is celebrated during the same time period. However, like most ancient civilizations, Chinese festivals also find their origins in many myths and legends, including Chinese New Year. As per the famous legend, this day began to be celebrated in order to commemorate the victory over a legendry beast, named Nian.
As per the mythical tale, this vicious beast would visit villages on the first day of the New Year and feast on the livestock, crops and even children. To protect themselves from the beast and to satiate his appetite, the villagers began placing food on their doorstep; however, once the villagers saw the humongous beast getting frightened of a child, who was wearing red clothing, they got hold of his weakness. Since then, people started hanging red decorations outside their houses on New Year's Eve to scare away the dreaded beast.
Celebrations around the World
The lively and vivacious Chinese New Year celebrations are not just limited to the mainland China, but can be seen celebrated with full vigor in many other countries that have huge oriental populations of ethnic Chinese or Han. Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Macau, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Philippines, certain parts of Mongolia, Bhutan, Tibet, Korea, and Japan are some such countries. Besides these major countries, Chinese New Year is also celebrated with great pomp and show in the Chinatown areas of all major countries of the world, which include the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and various other nations, where Chinese population has migrated to in order to find better future prospects.
Chinese New Year is a time of joy, fun and frolic across China and many other nations. This article sheds light on its various interesting aspects.