Recently there is hot TV program called “The Biggest Celebration on Earth” promoted by BBC. This is talking about the Chinese New Year celebration. The Rooster Year is just around the corner and will begin from 28th of January. Chinese New Year, known as “Spring Festival” is the most important holiday for Chinese people. It is defined to be the very first day according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Normally, the celebration starts from the New Year’s Eve and lasts till the middle of the first month. Celebration occurs after cleaning the whole house and displaying traditional new year decorations.
This festival is for family reunion and relatives gathering. People normally visit relatives and friends, give little kids red packets, do some shopping, watch traditional Chinese shows, launch fireworks, and plan for the coming year. The celebration will sometimes be highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of heaven, earth, the family ancestors and other gods.
It is unclear when the exact date of the very first New Year celebration in China was. However, it is well believed to start from the year end religious ceremony during the Shang Dynasty (1766 BC – 1122 BC). Some others believe that it started from as early as Emperor Yao and Shun (~2300 BC). At first, the date of celebration varied from mid-winter to early spring. With the maturity of the solar base calendar, Emperor Wu (157 BC – 87 BC) of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220), established the first day of the first month as the beginning of the year, and it remains afterwards.
According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the “Year”(年). The “Year” looks like an ox with a lion head and inhabits in the sea. At the night of New Year’s Eve, the “Year” will come to harm people, animals, and properties. Later, people found that the “Year” fears the color red, fire, and loud sounds. Therefore, for self-protection, people formed the habit of posting red Dui Lian in front of their house as well as launching fireworks (wrapped with red paper), and hanging red lanterns all around. And this is believed to be why Chinese people like red color so much.
New Year’s Eve Dinner（除夕晚宴）
The New Year’s Eve dinner is the most important dinner. Normally, this is the family reunion dinner, especially for family members away from home. During the dinner, fish is a must-have dish as it means “年年有余（鱼）” which last word is the same pronunciation as fish. This saying meant to be have money saved after one year (in another way, to be rich) Dumplings are the most important dish in Northern China due to its money shape (similar to the ancient money in Dynasties). Chicken or ducks are also preferable as they are tributes for ancestors. Chinese enjoys the homemade dinner better than going to a restaurant. Preparing this dinner usually takes more than 5 people and this is seen as the family reunion team work.
Fireworks are used to scared away the “Year” and celebrate the new coming. Right after midnight on New Year’s Eve, fireworks will be launched. It is believed that who launched the first firework of the New Year will be good luck in next year.
Shou Sui means “guarding the eve” as family members stay awake during the eve to keep bad things away together. Some people just stay up until the midnight after the fireworks. To keep awake is to be alarm of mythical beast “Year”. People launch fireworks, light fires, and stay awake the whole night to fend off the “Year”.
The Red packet is a red envelope with money in it, which ranges from one to a few thousand Chinese Yuan. Usually the red racket is given by adults, especially married couples, and elderly to young children in the New Year days. It was believed that the money in the red packet will scare the evil off the children, keep them healthy, and give them a long life. However, nowadays, adults give red packets to each other as well to wish others a good luck.
New Year Markets
In the course of the New Year’s days, a temporary market will be setup to mainly sell New Year goods, such as clothing, fireworks, decorations, food, and street performance. The market is usually decorated with a large amount of lanterns and full of red color.
Xiao year is the 23th or 24th of the last month of a Chinese year. It is said that this is the day the food god will leave the family in order to go to heaven and report the activity of family to the Emperor of the heaven. People will follow religious ceremony to say farewell to the food god, including taking down and burning the paint of the food god. After the New Year’s Day, people will buy new paint of the food god and display it in the kitchen.
A few days before the Chinese New Year, people will do a complete cleaning of the house and housewares which signifies to remove the old and welcome the new. Historically, when bathing did not occur so often, taking a nice bath is also important to welcome the New Year.
After the cleaning, people will decorate the house to welcome the New Year. Most of the decorations are red color. The most popular New Year decorations are upside down Fu（福）, dui lian（对联）, lanterns, year paint （年画）, papercutting （窗花）, door gods （门神）, and etc. The Fu (wellness) is upside down is due to its pronunciation same as arrived in Chinese.
Chinese New Year Activities
Before the New Year’s Day: Shopping, cleaning, decorations
New Year’s Eve: Family dinner, Shou Sui, Launch Fireworks
First Day of the New Year: In some places, people stay at home on the first day. In other places, people greet each other, especially younger people will visit older relatives and friends.
Second Day: Some people will host a religious ceremony to honor the gods. Married females will visit their parents.
Third Day: Ceremony to honor the ancestors.
Fifteenth Day: This is the Yuan Xiao festival（元宵节）, also called The Lantern festival. This is also the end of the New Year celebrations.
Chinese New Year Greetings
Happy New Year
Wan Shi Ru Yi（万事如意）: everything follows your will
Ji Xiang Ru Yi（吉祥如意）: harmony and everything follows your will
Sui Sui Ping An（岁岁平安）: harmony and safety year around
Gong Xi Fa Cai（恭喜发财）: congratulations and be rich.