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  • Writer's pictureLuis and JudyAnn

Chinese New Year 2019

Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is the most important Chinese holiday. Much like the celebration of the New Year in the Western world, Chinese New Year is all about the hopeful spirit of renewal. The holiday’s traditions, symbols and rituals are all meant to wipe the slate clean and prepare for prosperity, good luck and happiness in the new year. Simply put, every Chinese New Year is a new beginning. Today, Chinese New Year is celebrated with fireworks and family dinners by more than a billion people around the world. 

Typically, the celebration begins on the New Year's Eve and lasts for around 15 days through the middle of the first month. Before the celebration, people traditionally clean their houses thoroughly, and also display traditional New Year's decorations. This festivity is a time for a family reunion, and is considered the most important part of the Chinese New Year celebration. People often visit relatives and friends, do some shopping, watch traditional Chinese New Year events, launch fireworks, and plan for the coming year. The celebration is sometimes accentuated with a religious ceremony given in honor of heaven, earth, the family's ancestors and other gods. In modern China, Chinese New Year is a celebrated public holiday, and working professionals usually enjoy 7 days of time off, including the weekend. 

Each new Chinese year is named for one of 12 animal symbols from the Chinese zodiac, which then rotate on a 12 year cycle. Those animals being the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The Chinese place great importance on the zodiac animal ruling the year of your birth. That simple stroke of luck, or fortuitous planning by your parents, can influence your character, relationships and the overall arc of your life. No pressure, at all.

You can always tell when Chinese New Year is around the corner because of the festive scarlet decor adorning every street, storefront, and home. The color red is ubiquitous, because it is associated with wealth and good fortune in Chinese culture. Red lanterns are hung up in streets, while windows and doors are decorated with posters and papers bearing lucky characters or phrases. From clothing and underwear to lanterns and calligraphy bright vivid red is the color of choice for Chinese New Year. It’s used in abundance everywhere feasibly possible during new year preparations. Red is considered an auspicious, lucky color in Chinese culture no matter the occasion, but particularly so during Lunar New Year.

Red envelopes filled with lucky money are an iconic symbol of Chinese New Year. Exchanging these red envelopes is all about the reciprocity of giving and receiving. It’s a gesture of goodwill, expressed through the exchange of red envelopes, that builds relationships among family and friends. Ordinarily, the red envelope is given by adults, especially married couples, and elderly to young children in the New Year days. It is believed that the money in the red packet will suppress the evil from the children, keep them healthy, and give them a long life.

New Year festivities just wouldn’t be the same without pyrotechnics. New Year’s firecrackers are made from strings of rolled red paper containing gunpowder that, when set off, leave shreds of scarlet paper in their wake. Traditionally, it is believed that the loud noise of the firecrackers serves to scare away evil spirits. In addition, most major cities, including Hong Kong and Shanghai, will put up an impressive display of fireworks around midnight to welcome in the new year.

What would a holiday season be without delicious dishes served for the occasion? Family members typically gather on New Year’s Eve for a traditional meal that encourages indulgence and symbolizes abundance. Foods are chosen for their lucky sounding names or auspicious shapes. Meals differ from region to region, but most include eight (an auspicious number) courses of a meat-heavy lineup along with a whole fish of some sort. The fish is deliberately served late and not finished; the leftovers are saved. Not finishing the centerpiece of the meal symbolizes how the new year will be filled with surplus and abundance. Food symbolism plays an especially important role during Chinese New Year, when almost every dish that’s served carries a wish for good luck, many offspring or good health in the future. 


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