Legend has it that the Chinese New Year began with a battle against Nian, a mystical beast who would come on the first day of the new year to eat villagers, especially children. It is believed that Nian was afraid of the color red and firecrackers so to defeat him, people would hang red lanterns and throw firecrackers… And so they did for thousands and thousands of years ahead.
Nowadays, over 1/6 of the Earth’s population celebrates the Chinese New Year based on the lunar calendar. It is also called Spring Festival as it signifies the end of the coldest part of winter and the beginning of spring expectations. Celebrations continue for 15 days – from the new moon until the Lantern Festival. Preparations start much earlier with a rich variety of rituals to bring good luck in the upcoming year…
- Clean the House & Settle Unfinished Business – Before Chinese New Year comes, it is customary to clean the house from top to bottom, wash all your clothes and settle any unfinished deeds to get rid of all the bad luck gathered in the past year. During the first days of the New Year, you must not sweep or the new luck will be swept away!
- Red & Gold banners with New Year messages of good luck are put up at the entrance of the house – they always have to be in pair, hanging on both sides of the door. Typically, those include phrases of seven Chinese characters each expressing best wishes. Those are believed to keep evil away.
- New Year Paintings expressing best wishes are put up in the house to create a happy and festive atmosphere.
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- Paper Cutouts are put on the windows. They are traditionally red, diamond-shaped and with beautiful intricate patterns expressing hopes of a happy and prosperous life.
- Trays of oranges and tangerines are set up in the houses along with tray of candy containing 8 kinds of dried sweet fruit. Live plants and vases decorate the house and best wishes are written on red paper
- Red Packets – red envelopes with money is given to children and seniors. It is not customary to give a red envelope to working adults, except by their employers. The red envelope is believed to suppress evil and bring health and good luck.
- Ancestors Worship – it is customary to pay respect to ancestors to earn favors and get good fortune
- Chinese New Year dinner is a family feast – the entire family gathers to celebrate
- Food must be prepared ahead of time, as all knives must be put away before the New Year comes. Using a knife during the first days of the New Year “cuts off” all the good luck for the coming year.
- Dumplings have to be present at the table as they symbolize prosperity.
- Fish must be present at the holiday feast as it is believed to bring money and good luck in the upcoming year (in Chinese, the word for fish sounds like the word for surplus)
- Long Noodles are also a part of the meal as they symbolize Long Life. DO NOT cut the noodles while eating them!
- Firecrackers and fireworks are used to celebrate and to drive away evil.
- Celebrations include traditional Dragon and Lion Dance. It is believed that the loud drums and cymbals along with the face of the Dragon or Lion dancing aggressively can chase away evil spirits.
- Lantern Festival, the 15th and final day of the Chinese New Year celebrations. It is a magical time when the streets are lit up by red lanterns…