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Chinese New Year Celebration

Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday celebrated among Chinese people. It is often referred to as the spring festival because it signals the beginning of spring. It is a time when families and friends get together to say goodbye to the old and welcome the new. It originally lasted for 15 days, but now only lasts for 5 to 7 days. The exact origin of this Chinese New Year holiday is too old to be traced, but many explanations still exist. One idea is that the holiday originated when a beast named Nian (which means year in Chinese) came out the night before the new year and started to prey on the people in the villages.

Of course, the people were very frightened by this monster and so a brave old man went up to the beast and said to him that instead of eating the people of the villages, he should eat the other beasts that frightened these people. Nian followed the old man’s request and all of the beasts were chased into the forest.

The old man rode away on Nian’s back, and as it turns out, the man was an immortal god. The people of the village were very grateful to the old man for giving them a peaceful life.

Before the old man left for good, he told the people to put up red paper decorations on their windows and doors at the beginning of each new year because the color red scared the beast. They also set off firecrackers to scare away the horrible beast.

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This is only one idea about how Chinese New Year began, there are many other ideas about how this celebration began. Most people just celebrate the holiday without really knowing why. Another interesting thing about Chinese New Year is that very few people know when this holiday is celebrated without looking at a traditional Chinese calendar because it never falls on the same day. Chinese New Year dates changes every year, and many are still not sure why. I asked myself the same question and finally I figured out. This is because Chinese New year follows the Chinese Lunar Calendar which is different with the western calendar which is the Gregorian Calendar. The first day of Chinese New Year starts on the New Moon closest to spring.

The Chinese calendar is very different from the Western calendar. The primary difference is that the months of the Chinese calendar are directly tied to the phases of the Moon. These phases, however, do not fit in with the length of the year as measured by the Earth’s revolution around the sun. The Western calendar is fixed in the sense that each New Year begins on Solar or in other words, the Western calendar date January first. Because the Chinese New Year must correlate with a moon phase, it falls as early as January 22nd and as late as February 19th on the Western calendar. This has significant implications for Chinese Astrology. First, however, it’s important to understand the primary difference between Chinese and Western astrology. Chinese astrology focuses on the year sign, and Western astrology focuses on the month sign such as Libra, Virgo and etc. However, Chinese Astrology, have month signs. This can be very confusing because the month signs have the same name as the year signs.

Furthermore, when we say a Chinese sign corresponds to a Western sign, an example will be an Ox to Capricorn, it does not mean the person was born in a Capricorn month. Rather, we mean the person’s Chinese year-sign traits roughly correspond to the traits of that Western sign. Adding to the confusion is the fact we can’t know a person’s Western sign simply by knowing the person’s Chinese month sign. Let me give you an example, a person born on the first day of the seventh month which means July 1 in Western terminology of the Chinese calendar year 1979 was actually born on August 23rd of the Western calendar. Since July 1st is Cancer and August 23 is Leo, it’s easy to see the confusion. As with the months, neither do Chinese and Western years match exactly. Thus, even though we might know a person’s Chinese sign, we still cannot be sure of their year of birth. Conversely, if we know a person’s year of birth, we cannot be sure of their Chinese sign.

Let’s say someone was born in 1978 (Chinese year of the Horse) on the Western calendar. They would only be the Horse sign if born after February 6th. Since, Chinese New Year was February7th by the Western calendar. The Chinese Horse year 1978 actually has the Western calendar dates included in the period February 7, 1978 through January 27, 1979. This is especially important when evaluating compatibility. Signs most compatible with the Horse (Tiger and Dog) are not nearly so compatible with the Snake, which is the sign of people born in 1978 but earlier than February 7th on the Western calendar.

I hope you will get a clearer view about the differences of the Chinese Lunar Calendar and the Gregorian Calendar. And now, Now lets talk about the zodiac signs in the Chinese astrology, which are the 12 animals. Similar with Western astrology, it has also 12 signs, but instead of changing every month, they change every year. Each zodiac animal recur every twelfth year .Each animal in the Chinese zodiac has its own unique qualities that affect everyone, if you believe in this sort of thing, which I totally do. On February 10th, 2012, we enter the year of the Snake, which means we’re all in for a year of ramming our heads into things, filing our hooves, and being competitive for no reason.

Even with only 12 signs, Chinese astrology runs on a 60-year cycle. Elements come into play. There are 5 main elements which are Earth, Fire, Water, Wood, and Metal, as well as our old friends Yin (female) and Yang (male). So as we leave 2012, the year of the Yang Water Dragon, we enter the 2013 and will be the year of the Yin Water Snake, and so on.

Let’s talk about what sign you are!

If you’re born in October like me, and you think you already know your birth sign because you read it on a placemat in a Chinese restaurant when you were a kid, chances are it was wrong. Placemats always say something like “1997 = Rat” when it would be more accurate to say, “February 19, 1996 to February 7, 1997 = Rat” because Chinese New Year comes a month after Western New Year. So if you’re born in January of 1996, you’re not a Rat, you’re actually a Pig. That might come as a relief to you, because Pig are awesome but, as we’ll see, Rats have their charms too. Below is the zodiac following with its respective year and characteristics. See which zodiac belongs to you.

RAT (1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008) – If you’re born in a rat year, you’re tenacious, charming, and clever. Remember Templeton in Charlotte’s Web? Who turned out to be a good guy after all, even though he hoarded rotten eggs? You make a good friend, being loyal and generous to those in your pack. You might be greedy, envious, and manipulative, though, so watch it.

OX (1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009) – The ox is powerful, calm, goal-oriented, and patient, which is a nice way of saying stubborn as hell. You can also be introverted, and sometimes lonely and insecure.

TIGER (1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010) – You are one sexy animal, tiger, as well as being daring, restless, unpredictable, warm, and sincere.

RABBIT (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011) – Aw, you’re a bunny! Me, too. Soft, gracious, elegant, shy, lucky, and kind of a pushover, you like to be around friends and family but you hate it when people try to pick you up by your ears. Or cut off your foot for good luck.

DRAGON (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012) – Dragons are dignified, fiery, warm-hearted, competitive, and make good leaders. They can also be eccentric, arrogant, and they will blast people who annoy them with some scary verbal fire. That can really scour the enamel off your teeth, Dragon, so try to keep your cool and see your dentist regularly.

SNAKE (1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013) – Snakes are deep, mystical, good with money, a little dangerous, gregarious, and intuitive. They can also be mistrustful, cold (unless they stay under their heat lamps), and suffocating (if they decide they want to keep you forever and/or eat you head-first).

HORSE (1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014) – Horses need to roam, which some people think makes them fickle, unmoored, and anxious. But horse lovers know that all that muscle, mental and otherwise, needs to be used or else it goes soft! Cheerful and popular, overworked horses have also been known to fall asleep standing up. Just throw a blanket over them, they’ll be fine.

SHEEP (1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015) – Sheep are shy, peaceful loners who love nothing more than mothering the heck out of somebody. This also means that they worry a lot, so if you have a Sheep for a parent, they’ll freak out extra if they haven’t heard from you lately. They just need a little reassurance to keep them warm and fluffy.

MONKEY (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016) – Monkeys are inventors and problem-solvers. They love facts and can get a little competitive; they can be the type who always needs to be right, and frankly they’re somewhat vain. What they really need is to have some fun!

ROOSTER (1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017) – You might think a Rooster would be strutting around, waking people up far too early in the morning, but actually Roosters are neat, organized, conservative, and a little bit proud of themselves.

DOG (1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018) – Dogs can be, well, Dogs. Sure, they’re loyal, fair, and unpretentious, but look out for those little white lies they tell you, girlfriend. They can be a little moody and have trouble finding true love unless they can stay in touch with their open-minded, affectionate side, and have regular baths to keep the fleas away.

PIG (1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019) – Pigs are the best. Always ready to help out a friend and never snobbish, a Pig will be happy to help you move that sofa, as long as she’s properly thanked in return. A naive, gullible Pig will soon be your worst enemy if you take advantage.

So which zodiac sign do you belong?

Image 2: Chinese New Year decorations that usually used to hang around the house.

Image 3: Chinese New Year decorations that usually used to paste in front of the door.

We Chinese people tend to believe in Feng Shui which means the practice of bringing harmony and peace into your life. In my family, during Chinese New Year, we will rearrange our furnitures and we will get rid of some of the old furnitures and get a new set. Before the start of Chinese New Year, we will clean our house an make sure everything looks new and clean.

After thoroughly cleansing the home, we will decorate the house with auspicious red color decor items carrying golden inscriptions with the symbols of Happiness, Longevity, Prosperity, etc. Various flowers, , Lucky Bamboo, Plum Blossoms and others are used in the Chinese New Year home decor according to the specific meaning of each flower. We will hang the decors around the house and we will also stick the decors in front of our house door. Image 2 and 3 are some of the Chinese New Year decoration pictures. Decorations of the incoming zodiac animal are also displayed. Red and gold are very popular colors to decorate with. Red represents power happiness, vitality (and scares away beasts). Gold represents wealth and good fortune.

Image 4: The Jade Emporer Image 5: Kitchen God

Besides that, you will also see the mystic knot symbol used in numerous decor items, as well as images of many ancient gods venerated in Chinese culture, such as Guan Yu, the God of War and Justice, the Jade Emperor, as well as the popular Kitchen God. Basically, all the efforts are directed towards creating clean and harmonious energy in your home in order to welcome the blessings of the New Year.

Chinese New Year will last for up to 15 days, now let’s talk about what we Chinese do during the 15 days of Chinese New Year and the day before the start of Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year Eve

Image 6: Fatt Choy Image 7: Sea Cucumber This day is where all relatives will gather at the grand parent house for reunion dinner. Family members will be seated together in one table to eat the meal. Reunion dinner includes chicken, pork, sea cucumber, cucumber, fish and many more. Famous dishes of the reunion dinner which are White steamed chicken, Fatt Choy which means a type of black hair-like algae, Abalone and etc. Me and my family will drive back to our hometown which is in Ipoh, Perak and spend a couple of nights there with my grandparents and relatives.

Day 1

The first day of Chinese New Year which means Xin Nian Kuai Le (Happy Chinese New Year) ! it is celebrated the most widely by the Buddhists. Many cities across the world consider the first two days of Chinese New Year to be a public holiday, businesses and offices are usually closed. On the first day of Chinese New Year, Buddhists typically refrain from eating meat or killing animals. Fireworks, lion dances, and parades will fill the streets. Senior members of the family are especially honored, and younger people receive Ang Pao (Money in Red envelopes) and sweets from their elders. In my family, on the first day, me and my siblings will dress into our new clothes. And then we will have an Ang Pao giving ceremony. We will first greet our parents by kneeling down on the floor, as a form of respect. And then we will wish our parents, we will start our wishes with Gong Xi Fa Chai which means wishing you to be prosperous in the coming year , and following with other wishes. For example, Sheng Ti Jian Kang (Good Health), Cai Yuan Gun Gun (Good Wealth) and many other more. And then, we will start our day with visiting or relatives and friends.

Day 2

The second day of Chinese New Year is considered as Cai Shen, also known as the God of Wealth’s birthday. Some consider this day to be important for dogs and reward them with treats! Friends and family members are typically visited, because the following day is considered a bad day to socialize away from home. Me and my family members will first go to the temple for praying purpose, in order to get blessing by the gods above to have a good life ahead. After that, we will continue to do visiting.

Day 3

In direct contrast with the first two days of Chinese New Year, day three is considered a bad day to visit friends and family. Superstitious and orthodox followers choose to remain at home, or go to have their fortunes told at a temple dedicated to the God of Wealth.

Day 4

Although Chinese New Year traditions and superstitions persist, business returns to normal on the fourth day in many places. Corporations may have
department dinners or social events for their employees.

Day 5

Dumplings are consumed in mainland China on day five. Some groups shoot firecrackers to hopefully bring blessings from Guan Yu — a famous Chinese general considered the Taoist God of War.

Day 6

Offices reopen and business returns to normal in places that observe the first five days of Chinese New Year as a public holiday. Again, more firecrackers are thrown to keep away malicious spirits who may interfere with business.

Day 7

Day seven is Ren Re. Means its everyone’s birthday, it is considered by many to be the day that everyone grows one year older. Buddhists do not eat meat, and Chinese communities in Southeast Asia consume raw fish salad to ensure prosperity.

Day 8

The eighth day of Chinese New Year is the eve of the Jade Emperor’s birthday; special family dinners are held to honor Yu Huang, the Ruler of Heaven. Many employers will thank their employees with food.

Day 9

The birthday of the Jade Emperor is considered extra important by the Hokkien Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore. Prayers are offered and incense is lit. Sugarcane is considered a traditional offering. Sugarcane will be the main offerings because back in the past,

Day 10

Recognition and offerings continue to be offered to the Jade Emperor on day 10.

Day 11 – 12

Aside from family dinners, these days are relatively quiet on Chinese New Year.

Day 13

After a gluttonous twelve days of eating, everyone converts to vegetarian on the thirteenth day as a peace offering to weary digestive systems. Day 13 is mostly dedicated to Guan Yu, the God of War. Although everyone is long since back to work, businesses will offer special thanks to the famous general.

Day 14

Day 14 is spent resting and preparing for the Lantern Festival — the final
Chinese New Year blowout. Day 15

Considered by many to be the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day, the fifteenth and last day of Chinese New Year brings another round of fireworks, shows, and celebration. Most romantic of the Chinese New Year traditions, single women once wrote contact information on oranges, then threw them into the river. Men would collect the oranges and determine if they would take a chance with contact based on the sweetness or sourness of the orange! Not to be confused with the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is sometimes also referred to as the Lantern Festival, candles are lit everywhere to attract friendly spirits. Large processions walk the streets with candles and lanterns.

During the Chinese New Year’s celebration, people participate in many traditional activities. The Chinese believe that as they enter a new year, they should put behind them all things of the past. They clean their houses, pay off debts, purchase new clothes, paint their doors and window panes, and even get new haircuts. These activities symbolize new life and new beginnings.

Activities like cleaning the house must be done before the start of Chinese New Year. If a person who use broom during the Chinese New Year period, he or she will be said to have bad luck in future. Homes are decorated with flowers and paper decorations stating wishes of prosperity, good luck, happiness, good fortune, wealth, and longevity for the coming year. Decorations of the incoming zodiac animal are also displayed. Red and gold are very popular colors to decorate with. Red represents power happiness, vitality (and scares away beasts). Gold represents wealth and good fortune.

One very important tradition of the Chinese New Year is exchanging gifts. A traditional gift that is given is small red envelopes filled with “lucky money”. These envelopes are given to children by their family and friends. The red color is used to bring good fortune, and the money inside is used by the children to buy holiday treats. These envelopes symbolize the giving of good fortune.

Food is also very important to New Year’s celebrations. Families and friends get together for large feasts. Before they eat, they place their food on alters and make offerings to the gods. The foods served at these feasts vary, but what is served is always a tradition for that family.

The dragon is another popular symbol for Chinese New Year. It is a symbol of strength, goodness, and good luck, and supernatural forces. The dragon is said to be a mythical combination of many animals. During New Years, one of the main events is a large parade down the city streets. As part of this parade, people dress up in dragon costumes and dance down the streets. These costumes are made of brightly colored silk and decorated very extravagantly. Some of the dragons are 100 feet long! Men and boys perform intricate dragon dances with one person manipulating the head of the dragon and the rest moving the body.

A Chinese New Year celebration would not be complete without fireworks. There are many beliefs about why fireworks are used. One is that the noise wakes up the dragon who will fly across the sky to bring the spring rain for the crops. Another belief is that the noise of the fireworks is supposed to scare away all evil spirits and misfortunes, preventing them from coming into the new year. In fact, gunpowder was invented in China over 1000 years ago for that very purpose. Firecrackers are thrown at the feet of the dragons in the parade to keep them awake for the celebration. The dragons are believed to sleep the rest of the year.

The Eve of the New Year is the most strictly observed part of the holiday. It starts out with a late night feast with members of the family. Ancestors are honored and offering of food and incense are made to the gods. At the strike of midnight, the celebrating really begins. The sky is filled with fireworks and the streets are filled with people wishing each other a happy new year. The next morning, gifts are exchanged among family members and friends. During the remaining days of the celebration, time is spent visiting friends and wishing them luck in the new year. New Years Eve and the first three days of the new year are officially observed as a holiday. During this time the majority of businesses (with the exception of movie theaters and restaurants) shut down for the celebrating. People return to work somewhere between the fifth and eight day of the new year, but the spirit of celebration lasts through the Festival of Lanterns on the 15th day of the new year. After this, life takes on it’s normal routines again.

It is important to remember that Chinese New Year is not only celebrated in China. Anywhere there are Chinese people, there is a Chinese New Year celebration. The specific activities of the celebration often vary depending on the region, but the basic principles are the same.

References:

Cech, M. (1991). Globalchild: Multicultural Resources for Young Children. New York: Addison-Wesley.

Chinese New Year Celebration Box Guide. (1993). Lakeshore Learning Materials.

Sing, R. (1992). Chinese New Year’s Dragon Teacher’s Guide. In Multicultural Celebrations. Cleveland, Ohio: Modern Curriculum Press.

Santino, J. F. (1990) Calendar. In The New Book of Knowledge (Vol. 3 pp 11-17) Connecticut: Grolier Inc.

Tan Nan Junior College of Technology. (1996). Chinese New Year. [On-line]. Available: http://peacock.tnjc.edu.tw/NEW/new year.html.

Warren, J. & McKinnon, E. (1988). Small World Celebrations. Everett, WA: Warren.

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Chinese New Year Celebration. (2017, Jan 18). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/chinese-new-year-3-essay

Chinese New Year Celebration
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