By Maya Hariz
Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in China and to Chinese citizens all over the world, in fact it is celebrated by over 20% of the world’s population. It is also known as the “Spring Festival” because it marks the end of Winter and beginning of Spring. There is so set date for the New Year, it usually ranges from January 21 to February 20, and is celebrated for 15 days.
It is a day for praying to the Gods for a good harvesting and planting season. It is also a day for fighting off monsters, according to a legend there was a monster named Nian and it would come almost every New Year’s Eve. People would hide from him in their homes, however one day a boy brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers.
The following day, people celebrated their survival by setting off more firecrackers and that became a crucial part of the celebration. The color red symbolizes power and gold symbolizes happiness.
Days before the New Year, houses are cleaned to sweep away any traces of bad luck. Doors and window panes are given a new coat of paint, usually red. Everyone tries to pay all of their debts before the start of the new year.
Families visit the cemetery where deceased relatives are buried to clean the stones on their graves. Oranges and fresh flowers are placed on the graves as offerings. People get new clothes or a new pair of shoes to celebrate the fresh start. They believe that your appearance and attitude during New Year sets the tone for the rest of the year.
Children are given a red packet filled with “lucky money” by adults, the amounts are in even multiples and the number four is avoided because the pronunciation for the number in Chinese sounds like “death.” The amounts are usually small, more as a token of a good luck. Nowadays “lucky money” may come in higher amounts.
The food served at New Year have symbolic meaning. The shape, color and even the sound of the word of the food symbolize the hopes of the New Year: happiness, prosperity and luck.
When people think of the Chinese New Year most would think of the Dragon dance. The dance originated from the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD) and the tradition never faded. It was originally performed to please the ancestors and to plead for enough for rain for the crops and to prevent sickness and hunger.
This year, in 2019, The Chinese New Year occured on February 5th. The year of the Pig, it’s the 12th of all Chinese zodiac animals.
According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order of zodiac animals would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party. The Pig overslept and arrived late. Another story says that a wolf destroyed his house so the Pig had to rebuild his home before attending the party.
If you’d like to read more about the Year of the Pig or find out which Chinese zodiac animal you have check out: https://chinesenewyear.net/