Chinese New Year Facts
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Chinese New Year (also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year), starts with the New Moon (first day of the first lunar month) and ends 15 days later, on the full moon.
The last day of the Chinese New Year (15th day) is called the Lantern Festival. People usually celebrate this festival at night with lantern displays, you can also see children carrying lanterns in a parade.
Being the Chinese main festival of the year, Chinese New Year remains the most important social and economic holiday in China. The holiday was a time to honor household, heavenly deities and ancestors. It was also a perfect time to bring family together for feasting.
The most important days of the New Year are the Chinese New Yaer's eve and the first day of Chinese New Year.
The period around Chinese New Year is also considered as the time of the largest human migration. In China, where much of the migration takes place, it's been reported that trains are so overcrowded that many people wear diapers for their +24hour journeys home.
It's been said that a sixth of the world celebrate Chinese New Year.
If people buy Christmas tree for their Christmas Day, traditionally the Chinese will buy plum tree for their New Year.
15 Day Celebration of Chinese New Year
New Year's Eve
It is important to have the house cleaned before New Year’s day. It is believed the cleaning sweeps away all the bad luck of the preceding year and makes our homes ready for good luck. Cleaning is also meant to appease the gods who would coming down to make inspections. People posted scrolls printed with lucky or positive messages on household gates.
Everyone is adviced to settle any accumulated debts on the last days of the old year. If not, tradition believes you will remain in increasing debt for the rest of the year. Tradition also taught that all food should be prepared before New Year's day, so that all sharp instruments such as scissors and knives, could be put away to avoid cutting any "luck" of the New Year.
A reunion dinner is held on New Year’s eve and all the members of the family get together for the celebration. Usually the venue will be in or near the home of the oldest or most senior member of the family.
The First Day
The first day is “the welcoming of the gods of heavens and earth” and many people will conduct a religious ceremony. Ritual sacrifices of food and paper icons will be offered to ancestors and gods. Some people abstain from meat because it is believed that this will enhance longevity. Some families may also invite a lion dance troupe in order to evict bad spirits. Firecrackers will be set off to frighten harmful spirits.
A traditional Buddhist vegetarian dish called “Chai” or Buddha’s delight is prepared using 18 different ingredients as the number 18 considered an auspicious number signifying wealth and prosperity.
It is also a time when families visit their oldest and most senior members of the family, usually their great-grandparents, greatparents or parents. The visits serve to strengthen family kinship. New clothings are worn on the first day of the New Year and red packets are given to children and juniors by the married and elders. The color red is liberally used in all decorations.
To welcome the guests, they traditionally provide tea and sweet treats such as sugared fruits, cakes etc which are supposed to sweeten one’s upcoming year. Fruits and sweets are often served on an octagonal or round tray – the form resembling togetherness. The amount of sweets often be arranged in eight or nine units as they are considered lucky numbers. The visitor will usually bring an auspicious gifts such as oranges, tangerines or other food that symbolizes wealth, happiness, prosperity or good luck.
Brooms and dust pans are put away so that luck cannot be swept away. The Chinese believe that the first day of the New Year will be full of luck falling down from the sky, this is why cleaning the house on the New Year’s day is frowned upon. A haircut or washing your hair is also considered bad luck, the word “hair” in Cantonese is a homophone for the word “prosperity” thus “cutting hair” can be percieved as “cutting away your prosperity”. Saying vulgar words and talking about death is considered inauspicious during the first few days of the New Year and people will traditionally avoid wearing black clothes. However, switching on the light for the night will be recommended as it is believed it will brighten up all your life throughout the year.
On the second day, the Chinese pray to all the gods as well as to their ancestors. They are extra kind to dogs because the second day is believed to be the birthday of all dogs.
Third and Fourth Day
The third and fourth day are generally accepted as inappropriate days to visit relatives. This is because these two days are known as “chi kou” meaning that people will easily get into arguments. The cause could be the fried food and visiting dduring the first two days of the Chinese New Year. Those who had an immediate kin decaesed in the past 3 years should not go house-visiting in order to respect the dead. Many people conclude it is inauspicious to do any house visiting during these two days. The third day is allocated to grave-visiting instead.
The fifth day is called Po Woo. People will normally stay home to welcome the God of Wealth. The fifth day is also the birthday of the God of Wealth. In some countries, businesses reopen on this day.
The seventh day is considered as the birthday of human beings. It is said that on this day everyone grows one year older. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish for prosperity and success. For many Buddhists, this is another day to avoid meat.
The ninth day is especially important to the Hokkien people (Min Nan speakers). The Hokkien people will offer thanks giving prayers to the Emperor of Heaven. This offerings will include sugarcane because it was sugarcane that had protected them from certain extermination generations ago.
The fifteenth day of the new year is also known as the Lantern Festival (or Chap Goh Mei in Fujian dialect). Families will walk down the street carrying lanterns. A sweet glutinous rice ball brewed in a soup will be eaten. Young men would highlight the parade with a dragon dance.