January 23 The Year of the Dragon
Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is known as “Spring Festival,” the literal translation of the Chinese name 春节 (Pinyin: Chūn Jié), owing to the difference between Western and traditional Chinese methods for computing the seasons. It marks the end of the winter season, analogous to the Western carnival. The festival begins on the first day of the first month (Chinese: 正月; pinyin: Zhēng Yuè) in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. Chinese New Year’s Eve, a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner, is known as Chú Xī (除夕) or “Eve of the Passing Year.” Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the “Lunar New Year”.
Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese calendar. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions.
Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese new year vary widely. People will pour out their money to buy presents, decoration, material, food, and clothing. It is also the tradition that every family thoroughly cleans the house to sweep away any ill-fortune in hopes to make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red colour paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of “good fortune” or “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”. On the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with families. Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies. The family will end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.
According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called theNian (Chinese: 年; pinyin: nián). Nian would come on the first day of New Year to eat livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the colour red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, Nian never came to the village again. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk. The Nian became Hongjun Laozu’s mount.
The first day is for the welcoming of the deities of the heavens and earth, officially beginning at midnight. Most importantly, the first day of Chinese New Year is a time to honor one’s elders and families visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended families, usually their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents
The second day of the Chinese New Year, known as kāinián (开年, “beginning of the year”), was when married daughters visited their birth parents, relatives and close friends. (Traditionally, married daughters often didn’t have the opportunity to visit their birth families frequently.)
The third day is known as chì kǒu (赤口), directly translated as “red mouth”. chì kǒu is also called chì gǒu rì (赤狗日). chì gǒu means “the God of Blazing Wrath” (熛怒之神). It is generally accepted that it is not a good day to socialize or visit your relatives and friends. his is also considered a propitious day to visit the temple of the God of Wealth and have one’s future told.
In northern Mainland China, people eat jiǎo zi (simplified Chinese: 饺子; traditional Chinese: 餃子), or dumplings on the morning of Po Wu (破五). In Taiwan, businesses traditionally re-open on the next day (the sixth day), accompanied by firecrackers.
It is also common in China that on the 5th day people will shoot off firecrackers in the attempt to get Guan Yu’s attention, thus ensuring his favor and good fortune for the new year.
15th Day or Lantern Festival
The last day of the Chinese New Year is the fifteenth day. It is celebrated as Yuan Xiao Festival/Yuánxiāojié (元宵节) or Shang Yuan Festival/Shàngyuánjié (上元节) or Lantern Festival, otherwise known as Chap Goh Mei (Chinese: 十五暝; pinyin: shí wǔ míng; literally “the fifteen night”) in Fujian dialect. Rice dumplings tangyuan (simplified Chinese: 汤圆; traditional Chinese: 湯圓; pinyin: tāngyuán), a sweet glutinous rice ball brewed in a soup, are eaten this day. Candles are lit outside houses as a way to guide wayward spirits home. This day is celebrated as the Lantern Festival, and families walk the street carrying lighted lanterns
Traditionally, Red envelopes or red packets (Cantonese: lai sze or lai see) (利是, 利市 or 利事); (Mandarin: ‘hóng bāo’ (红包); Hokkien: ‘ang pow’ (POJ: âng-pau); Hakka: ‘fung bao’; are passed out during the Chinese New Year’s celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors. It is also common for adults or young couples to give red packets to children. Red packets are also known as 壓歲錢/压岁钱 (Ya Sui Qian, which was evolved from 壓祟錢/压祟钱, literally, the money used to suppress or put down the evil spirit ) during this period.
Red packets almost always contain money, usually varying from a couple of dollars to several hundred. Per custom, the amount of money in the red packets should be ofeven numbers, as odd numbers are associated with cash given during funerals (帛金: Bai Jin). The number 8 is considered lucky (for its homophone for “wealth”), and $8 is commonly found in the red envelopes in the US. The number six (六, liù) is also very lucky as it sounds like ‘smooth’ (流, liú), in the sense of having a smooth year. Sometimes chocolate coins are found in the red packets.
The Year of the Dragon
Occupying the 5th position in the Chinese Zodiac, the Dragon is the mightiest of the signs. Dragons symbolize such character traits as dominance and ambition. Dragons prefer to live by their own rules and if left on their own, are usually successful. They’re driven, unafraid of challenges, and willing to take risks. They’re passionate in all they do and they do things in grand fashion. Unfortunately, this passion and enthusiasm can leave Dragons feeling exhausted and interestingly, unfulfilled.
While Dragons frequently help others, rarely will they ask for help. Others are attracted to Dragons, especially their colorful personalities, but deep down, Dragons prefer to be alone. Perhaps that is because they’re most successful when working alone. Their preference to be alone can come across as arrogance or conceitedness, but these qualities aren’t applicable. Dragons have tempers that can flare fast!