Xinnian Kuaile means Happy New Year
The celebrations of Chinese New Year have famously been known as Spring Festival since the 20th Century and they remain the most important ritual, social and economic holiday in China. Formerly, joined to Lunar-solar Chinese calendar, the holiday is believed to be spent to honor family and heavenly Goddess, as well as the ancestors.
Historically, the ancient Chinese calendar, on which the Chinese New Year is founded, has functioned as a religious, dynastic and social guide in Chinese society and all those communities belonging to Chinese heritage. According to Oracle bones engraved with astronomical record, the religious ritual to celebrate Chinese New Year can be traced back in 14th century B.C. The western Georgian calendar arrived in China along with Jesuit missionaries in 1582 and was generally adopted by public in 1912 and on January 01, 1949 was recognized as official New Year Day.
Evolution of Spring Festival
The Evolution of Spring Festival aiming to continue religious ritual started under the rule of famous Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong, when the government officially forbade the celebration of Chinese New Year other than the western Georgian calendar. But the Chinese and religious priests continued to unofficially celebrate Chinese New Year by following the ending extreme cold winter in the beginning of spring, to honor their Goddess and family. Later at the end of 20th century in 1996, Chinese leaders were more willing to officially accept the celebration of Chinese Near Year and the government instituted a weeklong country-wide holidays officially now called the Spring Festival-giving people the opportunity to travel home and to celebrate Chinese New Year.
The traditions to celebrate Chinese New Year have transformed by the lapse of time, the Chinese now significantly observe the Spring Festival holidays in a different fashion from their ancestors. Generally, for new generation the holiday has evolved from an opportunity to renew family ties to spend time in relaxation from work, enjoy feasts and rituals.
Epistemology to Observe Chinese New Year
Likely the Chinese culture the epistemology to observe Chinese Year is very unique and indigenous. The parameters to set lunar-solar phases altogether are also very complex which compose both the lunar and solar solstices and equinoxes to make Chinese zodiac, the cycle of twelve stations or signs along the apparent path of the sun through the cosmos.
Further, in the calendar each new year was distinguished by the characteristic of one of the 12 zodiacal animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. One important interesting fact about Chinese zodiac animal cycle is it also contains a Rooster Year which is considered unlucky for the people born in it. And 2017 is the Rooster Year. Other Rooster years since 1912 include: …1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017…
Chinese New Year Day always falls between January 21 and February 20, determined by the Chinese lunar-solar calendar. This year Chinese New Year starts from January 28 and the weeklong Spring Festival is going to be held between January, 28 and February 2.
How Do Chinese Celebrate Spring Festival?
Obviously, various interesting legends and stories are famous explaining the reasons for the celebration of Chinese New Year Spring Festival. The Chinese precisely welcome their new year and hold weeklong celebration because they believe happier start of the year will lead to lucky and prosperous year. Traditionally, the Chinese celebrated the impending spring for wishing good farming and harvest because at that time most were farmers. Today, in modern time, people wish for a good profit and business-wise a prosperous year.
Let us now turn spot light on the customs, how the Chinese observe New Year Spring Festival. This is also important on the one hand that China is an emerging economic giant, the second biggest economy leading world markets while on the other hand, they are the world largest population, I.7 billion people contributing 1/5 of the world population, known for its unique and indigenous culture. It is China’s New Year holiday however other countries in Asia; Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia, North Korea, Taiwan, Brunei, Singapore, Honking and Macau also officially observe China New Year holiday.
Rituals of Chinese New Year Spring Festival may differ in other countries; however, in China the people do not miss any chance to maximize their joys. The main traditional celebration of the festival includes Reunion Dinner with the family, giving Red Envelopes, Firecrackers, wearing New Clothes, magic dance demonstration, concert by contemporary and local singers and Decorations. Alongside this, the younger generation, now-a-days by using modern communications mode i.e. android cells and computers spends time on watching CCTV gala, instant message greeting and sending cyber money gifts.
Let us now have a glance on the rituals of Spring Festival and how the Chinese hold them.
Get Together & Reunion Dinner
Holidays are basically the time and opportunity for Chinese to be together and they incline to come home for their families to be together to celebrate Spring Festival. Country wise rush move is seen on the boom as all the Chinese noses pointing to reach their homes before New Year Eve. Traditionally, New Year Eve dinner is called “Reunion Dinner”. And this is also believed to be the most important meal to wish luck and happiness for the whole year. Big families containing relatives and their several generations incline to sit around tables to enjoy food and time together. In ancient time, the tradition was believed, “start luck and happiness from home and spread in the rest of society”. Eating fish in the Reunion Dinner is must and considered a sacred and lucky food.
The Chinese people together with their family members, neighbours and friends remain busy in decorating their streets, houses and commercial buildings. Red is the color for the festival as it is believed to be the promising, fortunate and propitious. Red flags, banners and posters depicting signs, balloons and images of happiness and prosperity are affixed around doors, wall and streets. And most notably, red lanterns hang in street on New Year Eve.
Though the Chinese start decorations and preparations for the celebration a couple of week before the New Year Eve, the most decoration are done on New Year Eve when all the family members are together. This is also important to mention here, as 2017 is the Rooster year therefore decorations related to roosters will be ordinarily seen; in particular, red rooster dolls for children and New Year paintings with roosters on.
Red Envelopes Giving
(Symbolized Giving Good Luck)
Following Reunion Dinner on New Year Eve and Decorations, the most ensuing custom is Red Envelopes giving containing cash gifts from older to younkers, from elders to children, from bosses to their subordinates (employees) and from leaders to subsidiaries. It is a special New Year bonus and likely the western Christmas gift. Billions of red envelopes depicting signs and saying of wishes and also containing money are distributed in the whole of the week and somewhere prior to the start of festival. Very interesting thing about this custom is giving Red Envelopes to (working) young adult is not a part while people are seen more ramped to find small children and senior retired persons.
Common Cultural Activities across the Community
Various cultural activities are arranged by the communes not only in the big cities but also in the rural areas and small towns keeping on the delights of public during festival: include Dragon Dance and fireworks. Public also engages themselves in setting of firecrackers and worshiping ancestors.
Among all the most fascinating traditions at temple fairs are Dragon Dance, Lion Dance, imperial performance like imperial wedding and setting off firework across the country during festival days.
Alongside, great varieties of Chinese products are on offer for example rare Chinese snacks and animals. The largest temple fair is organized in Beijing starting from the first day of the lunar year to the Lantern Festival.
In Northern part of China, the most popular custom is to offer various type of the Rice Sprout Song, a traditional Chinese dance performed in groups by colorfully-dressed women and men. Setting off firecrackers when old year is ending and New Year is coming is the oldest Chinese tradition. And firework at New Year is different from the firework on the western New Year Eve. Ritually, the tradition is to set off one string of small firecrackers first, followed by three big firecrackers, which symbolize sounding out the old year and sounding in the new one. The louder the three firecrackers, the better and luckier it’s believed it will be for business and farming in the coming year.
Praying in the temple during Chinese New Year Spring Festival is said to be particularly blessed activity and commonly believed by older people, will lead to smooth, happier and luckiest coming year. A large crowd of people coming in groups and couples together with family member can be seen around temple during festival days. The largest crowd is seen in Shanghai, China’s biggest city,around Longua Temple, the city’s biggest temple, to pray for good fortune.
Bonus Fun Fact: CNY is a tough time for “old” singles!!
During such a great joyful time of the Spring Festival, a bonus fun fact is received by single and unmarried people from their parents and elders. During relaxing and joyful moment along with family members people get chance to find and to arrange life partners. “Parents and relatives think they should be settled down” in the meanwhile singles keeping the blessed moment tend to get arranged in marriages. An important fact about Chinese society is in China, females are said to be marriageable up to 30 and males before 32. Those who don’t get married before these ages are thought to be the dregs of society! For these singles, parents are extremely anxious. So New Year’s Eve stress is heightened by embarrassing interrogations of the singles. Desperate parents even arrange dating (prospective marriages) for their single children.
A Season of Superstitions
Where there are legend stories concerned with the celebration of Spring Festival there are also certain superstitions during festival days concerned with Things People Mustn’t Do to Avoid a Year of Bad Luck as for instance: Washing of hair is extremely prohibited by some Chinese people during first three days of the New Year as it will also wash away Good Luck for the whole year. Likely goes with cleaning personal belonging bed sheets, clothes and houses believing that will clean away fortune and prosperity for the whole year. A cry of a child is believed to bring bad luck to the family, so the young and the children are conciliated nicely. Begging and asking for loan is a big “No No” people are generally inclined to serve others to save themselves from impending bliss.
Garments shops are seen to be full of Red Underwear for males and females. As red color is considered sacred and fortunate therefore couples prefer to increase joyousness of each other by showing red under wears.