New Year, Old Tradition
Not many people know, but on February 18th is the day where a large traditional festival will take place in the eastern side of the world. A
Not many people know, but on February 18th is the day where a large traditional festival will take place in the eastern side of the world.
As one of the most recognized East Asian holidays, the Chinese New Year brings about the first day of the Chinese calendar (Lunar calendar).
The popular and well-respected holiday is also known as Chuxi; Chu meaning “change” and xi meaning “Eve”. Celebrated in areas with large populations of those with the Chinese ethnicity, Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for China.
It has also had a strong influence on the new year celebrations of its geographic neighbours, such as North and South Korea, Mongolia, Nepalese and Vietnamese.
Chinese New Year starts on the first day of the new year containing a new moon and ends on the Lantern Festival fourteen days later. The zodiac signs, which most people know of, represent each year in the 12-year cycle that’s part of the Chinese calendar.
The signs are represented by animals, such as the Ox, Tiger, Dragon, Rabbit, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig and this year, the Rat.
An interesting fact about the holiday, is that it doesn’t always fall on the same day. Chinese New Year falls on different dates on the Gregorian calendar every year on different days of the week.
Because of this, some governments opt to shift working days in order to accommodate a longer public holiday.
The holiday itself is actually 15 days long. On the day before the New Year, Chinese families give their home a thorough cleaning.
It is believed the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the preceding year and makes their homes ready for a fresh new start full of good luck. They then hold the biggest event of the Chinese New Year, which is the New Year Eve dinner.
Their dish mainly consists of fish and dumplings, which are said to bring wealth because they look like a gold nugget. Most of the first 15 days of the New Year symbolize many different things and have an overall purpose. The following states what takes on place on each day.
First Day - The welcoming of the deities of the heaven and the earth; families also visit the oldest members of their extended family.
Second Day – Prayers are made to ancestors and the Gods, married daughters visit their birth parents and dogs are given extra attention as the day is known as “the birthday of all dogs.”
Third & Fourth Day – Families do not visit their relatives because the third day is used to visit family and friends who are deceased. It is also said it’s easy to argue with family on those days.
Fifth Day – It is custom to eat dumplings; businesses re-open accompanied by firecrackers.
Seventh Day – Known as the “common man’s birthday” where everyone grows one year older.
Ninth Day – Prayers are offered to the Jade Emperor of Heaven.
Fifteenth Day – Celebrated as the Lantern Festival, where families walk the street carrying lanterns. It also marks the end of Chinese New Year festivities.
The Lantern Festival itself is a major part of the Chinese New Year. During the festival, children go out at night carrying bright lanterns. In ancient times, emperors and noblemen only carried lanterns that were very simple in design.
But nowadays, the lanterns have become such a big part of the festivities that many of them creative and original pieces of art. For example, lanterns are now often made in shapes of animals.
Traditionally, the Lantern Festival is also used to serve as a day for love and matchmaking, on which an unmarried girl was traditionally permitted to appear in public unescorted and thus be seen by eligible bachelors.
It was one of the few nights in ancient times without a strict curfew. Young people were chaperoned in the streets in hopes of finding love. Matchmakers acted busily in hopes of pairing couples.
But as time progressed, the festival started to forget its old ways and mainly focus on the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.
It’s always interesting to know more about the culture and ways of other countries and ethnicities, and understanding more about the Chinese New Year can be beneficial.
Instead of just thinking about zodiac signs and fireworks, the holiday can now be seen as a new beginning for a family, and maybe even a country.
Word Count: 739