Chinese Celebrate Lunar New Year

25 01 2009


With red lanterns hanging from the eaves, the bangs of firecrackers outside, and tables of delicious food, Chinese people observed the Lunar New Year eve in the traditional way.

The Chinese New Year is celebrated as the symbol of spring’s celebration. In fact in China the Chinese New Year is still called the Spring festival. It is celebrated after the fall harvest and before the spring planting season. The date of the Chinese New Year is always changing and is dependant on the Chinese calendar. Emperor Huangdi in the year 2637 B.C.E invented the Chinese calendar.

Chinese months are reckoned by the lunar calendar, with each month beginning on the darkest day. New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest.

This year Spring festival falls on January 26th of 2009. It is considered the most important holiday for Chinese. People meet relatives and eat dumplings and various delicious food. They set off firecrackers to scare off evil spirits.

Spring Festival celebrations take various forms in different places. In China, people may take weeks of holiday from work to prepare for and celebrate the New Year. In the capital Beijing, dozens of temple fairs featuring cultural activities and folk customs shows began on Sunday.

Year 2009: The Year of the Ox

Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality. Those born in ox years tend to be painters, engineers, and architects. They are stable, fearless, obstinate, hard-working and friendly. Jack Nicholson, Jane Fonda, Walt Disney, and Anthony Hopkins were all born in the year of the ox.

Fireworks and Family Feasts

At Chinese New Year celebrations people wear red clothes, decorate with poems on red paper, and give children “lucky money” in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. The fireworks that shower the festivities are rooted in a similar ancient custom. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits.

The Lantern Festival

In China, the New Year is a time of family reunion. Family members gather at home and shared meals, most significantly a feast on New Year’s Eve. In the United States, however, many early Chinese immigrants arrived without their families, and found a sense of community through neighborhood associations instead. Today, many Chinese-American neighborhood associations host banquets and other New Year events.

The lantern festival is held on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Some of the lanterns may be works of art, painted with birds, animals, flowers, zodiac signs, and scenes from legend and history. People hang glowing lanterns in temples, and carry lanterns to an evening parade under the light of the full moon.

In many areas the highlight of the lantern festival is the dragon dance. The dragon—which might stretch a hundred feet long—is typically made of silk, paper, and bamboo. Traditionally the dragon is held aloft by young men who dance as they guide the colorful beast through the streets. In the United States, where the New Year is celebrated with a shortened schedule, the dragon dance always takes place on a weekend. In addition, many Chinese-American communities have added American parade elements such as marching bands and floats.

You can say Happy Chinese New Year in many ways:

新年快乐!xīn nián kuài lè – Happy New Year!

过年好! ɡuò nián hǎo – Happy New Year!

恭喜发财!ɡōnɡ xǐ fā cái – I wish You Great Prosperity!

牛年吉祥! niú nián jí xiáng – Good Luck in the Year of the Ox!

Wishing you all Happy Chinese New Year.

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