Introduction to the Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year has been known as the Spring Festival since the 20th century. Each Chinese year is given the characteristic of one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs. 2011 is the year of the Rabbit. New Year festivities begin on the first day of the first month and continue through to the 15th Day. The last day of the New Year festivities is marked by the Lantern Festival. The Chinese Calendar is lunar based unlike the sun based Gregorian calendar that is commonly followed around the globe.
History of the Spring Festival
The origin of the festival is so old, it cannot be traced.
It is believed that the New Year was first celebrated by the Shang dynasty to pay respect to ancestors.
The Zhou Dynasty associated it with agriculture and cultivation started in tandem with the New Year.
The Chao Wei and Jin dynasties introduced the shou sui or the gathering together with family and friends as the New Year transitions.
The Han dynasty introduced rituals like burning firecrackers to the ceremonies.
The Lantern Festival joined the tradition during the Tang dynasty.
Celebrating The New Year
Day 1 – Welcoming deities with fireworks and lion dances
Day 2 - Married daughters visit their parents and pray to ancestors.
Day 3 & 4 – It is inauspicious to visit friends and family or socialize on this day.
Day 5 & 6 – The people cook dumplings and shoot firecrackers to attract the God of Wealth.
Day 7 - People eat and toss fish salad to mark everyone growing a year older.
Day 8 – Family dinners to celebrate the eve of the birth of the Jade Emperor.
Day 9 - Visiting the Taoist Pantheon to pray to the Jade Emperor on his birthday.
Day 10 - The Jade Emperor’s birthday celebrations continue.
Day 11 & 12 – Inviting family and friends for dinner.
Day 13 – People eat pure vegetarian food. Organizations pray to Guan Yu, one of China’s greatest generals and considered the God of War.
Day 15 – The Lantern festival is marked on this day. Dragon dances and other rituals are also followed
Chinese New Year Traditions
If it is the year of your Chinese zodiac, wearing the color red all year will bring you good luck.
Parents give Hong Bao or little red envelopes containing cash as gifts to their children to bring them luck.
The Chinese sound for Fish is the same as for Abundance, which is why the Chinese eat fish during New Year celebration to bring prosperity.
It is a New Year tradition for kids as well as adults to wear new clothes
The Chinese place Dui Lian or decorative red banners next to and on doors during the New Year to bring luck and prosperity
Streets are decorated with red and gold lanterns while lavish firework displays form a major part of the celebrations
People hang red cards with written blessings on them from gold painted trees. They then try to hit one of the cards by throwing coins at it. Every person gets three tries. If they strike the card, the blessing becomes theirs.
Chinese New Year in the US
The Chinese in the US celebrate the first day of the festival by inviting friends and family for dinner. This celebration is likened to Thanksgiving in the American culture.
US based Chinese also pray to the Gods of Heaven and the Earth, in addition to worshipping their ancestors as well as deities particular to the household.
Sacrifices to their ancestors form an important part of the New Year customs and the Chinese do this to bring glory and fortune.
They also celebrate the Weilu or Gathering Around The Stove, a communal feast that signifies family unity.
The Chinese in the US cannot afford to take 2 weeks off or close their shops for the duration of the New Year celebrations. Hence, they limit their celebrations to evenings and weekends.
US based Chinese organized parades that combine the lantern festival with traditional US marches. The parades include traditional dragon dances as well as modern beauty pageants and floats.
For Chinese singletons who do not have their families in America, popular restaurants organize Spring Banquets where Chinese singles gather in the place of family members.
Several American cities hold China festivals wherein they screen Chinese movies, hold Chinese food festivals and promote Chinese businesses for two weeks of the New Year.
Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. (2011). Celebration of the Chinese New Year. Retrieved April 2011, 2011, from www.c-c-c.org: http://www.c-c-c.org/chineseculture/festival/newyear/newyear.html
Mapsoftheowrld.com. (2011). Chinese New Year Celebration in USA. Retrieved April 15, 2011, from www.123chinesenewyear.com: http://www.123chinesenewyear.com/chinese-new-year-celebration-in-usa.html
mapsoftheworld.com. (2011). Chinese New Year. Retrieved April 15, 2011, from www.123chinesenewyear.com: http://www.123chinesenewyear.com/chinese-new-year-activity.html
Wikipedia. (2011, April 7). Chinene new Year. Retrieved April 15, 2011, from en.wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_New_Year
Chinese New Year. (2011). The History Channel website. Retrieved 12:30, April 16, 2011, from http://www.history.com/topics/chinese-new-year