Chinese New Year in 2013 starts on February 10, ushering in the year of the snake! Variations of the festival take place all over the world, the most famous ones being in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Beijing.
This particular international festival needs little introduction, as it is one of the largest in the world. For the Chinese people, the New Year is the most significant annual tradition on their calendar. It is undoubtedly the longest running, and most widely celebrated holiday in China – and its influence has extended to all the major cities all over the world. From San Francisco, to Singapore, to even Sydney, Australia the Chinese New Year is celebrated.
Fifteen Days of Spring Festival
This New Year event is often referred to as “Spring Festival,” and it corresponds with the spring season of their calendar. The month is called Lichun, which translates “start of spring,” and it is the first month of their 24 month calendar, a lunar calendar. In western calendars, the festival usually falls in February or early March.
First, to prepare for Chinese New Year, families go through a period of cleansing. They clean their entire house, ridding themselves of old things, and clearing the way for the new. They are, in a way, removing any aspects of “bad luck” which are lingering from the year before, in order to have space for the coming prosperity of the next year.
It is also a period of reunion, and individuals of Chinese descent all over the world make their way home for the holidays.
On the new moon, the first day of the calendar for the new year, the festival has officially begun. It lasts for a full 15 days until the moon is full. Each day of the festival has its own particular attributes that distinguish it during the celebration. On day 1 participants tend to abstain from meat, in the hopes that their sacrifice will bring them fortune the following year. The second day is one of prayer to the gods and ancestors, giving them thanks for past blessings, and asking for protection in the coming year.
Day 3 is called Chikŏu, which translates as “red mouth.” Many Chinese families choose to stay inside for the duration, because it is unlucky to be social. By visiting friends on day 3, it is the equivalent of bringing “the god of blazing wrath” upon your household. Day 4 is the time when business resumes in certain regions – those with only 3 day celebrations. In other territories, this is a time for large dinners, and for paying homage to in-laws.
The fifth day of Chinese New Year is a commemoration of wealth and success. The god of wealth Pò Wŭ is said to be among the people. A large number of firecrackers are set off in this day and the following.
The 7th through 10th days of the Chinese New Year are for feasting and celebration in honor of the Jade Emperor. This figure is regarded in Chinese culture and mythology as the ruler of heaven, earth, and all other realms of existence. The 9th day is most important for this because, traditionally, it is the Jade Emperor’s birthday.
According to custom, on the 13th day of the festival, everybody participating once again refrains from eating any meat. This is to, essentially, give their stomachs a break. It allows their bodies to recuperate from the amount of rich food they have been consuming over the last twelve days.
The last day of the festival, on the fifteenth, is the most spectacular day of them all. It is the day of the brilliant lantern festival (Chap Goh Mei). It is a day set aside for lovers, as the dazzling lights symbolize a period of new beginnings. This day is the equivalent to Valentine’s Day in China.
The lantern festival takes place beneath the stunning full moon, and according to legend, illuminate spirits used to be seen in the sky on this night. The lanterns are there to accompany these spirits on their journey.
The customary food for the lantern festival are sweet rice balls known as tangyuan. They are traditionally served in a soup. Each region serves their own variety of tangyan, some more savory than others. Typical fillings include walnuts, sesame paste, orange peels.
Chinese New Year is a joyous festival recognized the world over for its dazzling colors, incredible food, and unique history.