Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival in China, is the most important traditional festival. It is also the most important celebration for families, and a week of official public holiday.
The first day of the New Year falls on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February.
In 2016, the first day of Chinese New Year falls on Monday, 8 February. 2016 is a year of the Monkey according to the Chinese 12-year animal zodiac cycle.
Why is Chinese New Year the most important holiday for Chinese people?
Although there are many interesting legends and stories explaining the start of the Chinese New Year festival, the main two reasons for the festival are:
- To celebrate a year of hard work, have a good rest, and relax with family
- To wish for a lucky and prosperous coming year
Chinese people believe that a good start to the year will lead to a lucky year. Chinese traditionally celebrated the start of a new year of farm work, and wished for a good harvest (when most were farmers). This has now evolved to celebrating the start of a new business year and wishing for profits and success in various vocations.
How do the Chinese celebrate the Festival?
The main traditional celebrations of the festival include eating reunion dinner with family, giving red envelopes(hongbao), firecrackers, new clothes, and decorations. More modern celebrations include watching the CCTV Gala, instant message greetings, and cyber money gifts.
It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red color paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of “good fortune” or “happiness“, “wealth”, and “longevity”. Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes.
Decorating Buildings, Houses, and Streets with Lucky Red Items
Every street, building, and house where CNY is celebrated is decorated with red. Red is the main color for the festival, as it is believed to be an auspicious color. Red lanterns hang in streets; red couplets are pasted on doors; banks and official buildings are decorated with red New Year pictures depicting images of prosperity.
Most of the decoration is traditionally done on Chinese New Year’s Eve.
It has long been a Chinese tradition to set off firecrackers when the New Year clock strikes.
Eating Lucky Foods for Increased Luck in the Year Ahead
Certain foods are eaten during the festival (especially at the New Year’s Eve dinner) because of their symbolic meanings, based on their names or appearances.
For example, fish is a must for Chinese New Year as the Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for surplus. Eating fish is believed to bring a surplus of money and good luck in the coming year.Other Chinese New Year foods include dumplings, spring rolls, glutinous rice cakes, and sweet rice balls.
Cultural Activities to Welcome the New Year
Many cultural activities are arranged during the festival. Rural areas and small towns retain more traditional celebrations than the cities, such as setting off firecrackers, ancestor worship, and dragon dances. Setting off fireworks is common during the Spring Festival season all over China.
At temple fairs in many Chinese cities traditional performances can be seen: dragon dances, lion dances, and imperial performances like an emperor’s wedding. A great variety of traditional Chinese products are on offer there, and strange Chinese snacks, rarely seen the rest of the year. Beijing’s temple fairs are held in parks from the first day of the lunar year to the Lantern Festival.
Things You Must/Mustn’t Do to Avoid a Year of Bad Luck
As Chinese people believe that the year’s start affects the whole year, are many superstitions and taboos for the Spring Festival season. These taboos usually apply up to a month before the festival and continue to the end of the festival (day 15, the Lantern Festival).
- Some Chinese people believe that they mustn’t do cleaning or wash their hair in the first three days as that will sweep/wash away good luck.
- A cry of a child is believed to bring bad luck to the family, so the young are placated fastidiously.
- No begging: To ask for a loan is a big “no-no”.
- Another interesting thing is the red underwear…
You will see red underwear sold at supermarkets and street markets. Red is believed to ward off bad luck and misfortune. For people born in a year of the Monkey, red underwear is a must for 2016!