“Wheeeeeeee…POOM!” It is Chinese New Year again! The time when you can see colorful streets decorated with lanterns and LED lights. I believe that you will notice every Chinese person’s house is filled with red colour decorations.
What is Chinese New Year?
For non-Chinese people, you may wonder why do we celebrate Chinese New Year and what we do during Chinese New Year. So, first of all, Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival where people welcome spring which represents planting, harvesting and a new start. Since it follows the lunar calendar, it does not have a set date in our standard calendars but starts from 1st January to 15th January according to the lunar calendar. For this year, it starts from 25th January to 8th February according to the Gregorian calendar.
Chinese New Year is the time when people pray to the gods for a good planting and harvesting season. During Chinese New Year, it is common to see firecrackers being set off and this tradition comes from the legend of a monster named Nian (年). According to legend, it would come down to the mortal realm every New Year’s Eve and most people would hide themselves in their houses to avoid being eaten. However, there was a boy who was brave enough to fight him off by using firecrackers. On the next day, people came out from their houses and celebrated their victory by setting off more firecrackers. This tradition of setting off firecrackers to welcome a new year was born as a result and has been kept until this day.
Chinese New Year Eve is also the day when everybody will go back to their hometowns and gather with their families to have a reunion dinner.
Why the colour red?
Other than firecrackers, red also scares the monster called Nian away. So, people would decorate their houses with red lanterns and wall decorations. Also, wearing red clothes during Chinese New Year, especially the first day, signifies good luck.
What are the 12 Zodiac animals?
For Chinese, there are 12 Zodiac animals, one for each year. The sequence of the 12 Zodiac animals is rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. There is a legend about the sequence of the 12 Zodiac animals too.
A long time ago, the Jade Emperor wanted to assign 12 animals to be his guards. He sent an immortal being to spread the message that there would be race to the Heavenly Gate and the ranks of the guards would be determined by the rankings of the race. The next day, the animals set off towards the Heavenly Gate.
You may be curious about how a small rat was able to be the first one to reach the Heavenly Gate. The rat got up very early and started the race. On his way to the gate, he encountered a river. It couldn’t pass through the river due to the swift current. After waiting for a long time, the rat met the ox who was about to cross the river and swiftly jumped into the ox’s ear. The ox didn’t mind at all and simply continued its journey. After crossing the river, he raced towards the palace of the Jade Emperor. When they were about to reach the gate, the rat jumped out of the ox’s ear and dashed to the feet of the Emperor. Hence, the rat won the race.
How about the rat’s neighbour – the cat? Actually, the day before the race, the cat had ordered the rat to wake him up. However, the rat was always bullied by the cat, so it did not wake the cat up and left quietly. The race had ended when the cat woke up.
How do you identify your Zodiac animal? 2020 is the year of Rat, hence, rat will be the Zodiac animal of any baby born on this year. You may find out your Zodiac animal by calculating the sequence of the Zodiac animals which has a 12-year cycle. For example, person who is born in 2008 will also have the rat as their Zodiac animal. After figuring out your Zodiac animal, you can use it to predict your health, career, luck and relationship success.
Things not to do during Chinese New Year.
- Do housework.
Sweeping and dumping trash are said to be sweeping away and dumping good fortune.
- Wash your hair on the first day of Chinese New Year.
Washing your hair means washing away your prosperity and wealth.
- Use sharp utensils.
Using scissors during Chinese New Year symbolizes fighting with others.
- Wear white and black clothes.
Usually, Chinese will wear white or black clothes to attend somebody’s funeral. So, these two colours are said to bring bad luck to us.
- Do not owe others money.
Chinese will return all the money they owe before Chinese New Year, if not you will owe more and more money throughout the year.
- Do not break anything – Be careful!
If you break anything in the house, it is believed that something bad will happen to your family or loved ones.
- Say unlucky phrases.
Swearing or using words with negative connotations can’t be done on Chinese New Year as it will bring you bad luck throughout the whole year. The word “4” is also considered a bad word since it sounds similar to “death” in Chinese.
It is believed that people who cry during Chinese New Year will cry for the whole year.
Things to do during Chinese New Year.
- Catch up with family members.
It is the time when every family member who has left your hometown for study or work comes back and gathers in one place.
- Receive or give red packets.
Children or anyone who is not married can get red packets from those who are married and are their elders. This symbolizes the elderly transferring their fortune to their kids. Sometimes, bosses will also give red packets to their employees.
- Watch a traditional lion dance.
- Clean up the whole house before Chinese New Year.
- Visit friends or relatives.
Chinese people will bring along tangerines while visiting others and they will exchange tangerines with each other.
- Pray at the temple.
Most Chinese people will go to a Chinese temple to pray for good luck on the third day of the Chinese New Year.
Food with special meaning during Chinese New Year.
- Glutinous rice cakes (Niangao)
Its Chinese pronunciation means getting higher every year in aspects such as business or study.
- Spring rolls.
They represent a wish for prosperity as it looks like gold bars.
They have the shape of Chinese silver ingots and thus people say it can help bring wealth.
- Rice balls (Tangyuan)
The pronunciation in Chinese sounds similar to happy reunion in Chinese.
They are usually used as a gift while visiting others. However, there is also a tradition in which women will write their names and contact number on a tangerine and throw it into a river on the last day of Chinese New Year. On the other side of the river, men will pick those tangerines up randomly and they will contact the number on it.
Eating fish means that we will have a surplus at the end of the year due to its pronunciation in Chinese and the pronunciation a Chinese proverb.
That’s all for my post. I hope that you have learned something from my post and enjoy your time with your family. However, for non-Chinese people, you should go and try some traditional Chinese food, they taste really good and it would be better if you get a chance to celebrate Chinese New Year with your Chinese friends! Last but not least, wish you all a happy Chinese New Year !