Chinese or Lunar New Year
New Year is rich with tradition and symbolism and provides a great
opportunity to have some fun and understand a little more about Chinese
Culture. The following page
provides but a glimpse of what Chinese New Year is all about and we hope
that it inspires you to learn some more about this exciting and fun time
in the Chinese calendar.
Chinese Calendar: The Chinese calendar is thought to have been invented by Emperor Huangdi, nearly 3000 years BC. Unlike the Gregorian (Western) calendar, New Year is typically celebrated on the day of the second new moon after the day on which the winter solstice occurs. Confused? Well in 2006 this means that CNY begins on 29 January and the celebration ends 15 days later on 13 February 2006. Why 15 days later? Well at this time the moon is full for the first time and this celestial event is traditionally marked by the Lantern Festival.
In the Chinese Zodiac 2008 (or 4706 in China) is a Year of the Earth Rat. The Rat is the first in the cycle of 12 Animal Signs, so it is a time of renewal and hard work. People born in an Earth Rat year are said to be logical realists, shrewd, charming, ambitious, and inventive. In China rats are considered courageous and enterprising. Anyone born in a Year of Rat is said to be clever, adaptable, sociable, active, and family-minded.
The Chinese New Year Zodiac is included below. Which animal are you? Which animal is your partner? And which animal is your child?
The Lion Dance: Whilst not native to China the lion is considered to be a holy animal and appears a great deal in Chinese mythology. Lion Dances usually take place in the first few days of CNY to bring luck to homes and businesses. Loud music and firecracker’s usually accompany the lion to ward off evil spirits. Green leaves and red envelopes are hung above the door of the home or business and the lion chews on these before spitting them out and ending his dance. This is called Choi Cheng, or “picking the green”, and is intended to signify that the year ahead will be filled with abundance and good fortune.
Chubby Baby Posters: Chubby Babies Riding Gold Fish! What The? These posters are actually called “Nian Hua", or Chinese New Year posters. Apart from being strangely cute, they are very potent symbols of happiness, luck, wealth, prosperity and fertility. One doesn't have to tell a parent or prospective parent that a picture of a baby is joyous thing, but in addition these posters are also covered in many other auspicious symbols. If you are interested you may refer to the “Symbols” page on this website for further details.
Red Envelopes: Red envelopes or red packages with lucky symbols are given to children at the start of the CNY. They contain money and are a wish fro prosperity in the coming year. They are called “Hong Bao” and “Lysee” in Mandarin and Cantonese respectively.
Gods: During CNY celebrations one can often see reference to
Chinese Gods. The “Star
Gods” and the “Door Gods” are seen in Chinese homes and
businesses throughout the year, but have particularly significance at CNY.
However the “Kitchen God” is intimately linked with CNY
Celebrations. Pictured here
with his wife, the “Kitchen God” travels to heaven on the 24th day of
the last lunar month to report on the family’s activities to the Jade
Emperor. Sacrifices are made to him on this day so he will make a
favourable report. (So I
guess in some ways he is kind of similar to an AFIS Social Worker!
*laugh*) Images of the
Kitchen god are burned as a symbolic act of departure and his area in the
home is cleaned in preparation for his return on New Years Eve.
The Lantern Festival: The Lantern Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar and marks the end of CNY Celebrations. There are many stories about how the Lantern Festival originated, however most agree that it has some religious or spiritual basis. Taiyi, the God of Heaven in ancient times was a vengeful deity and to please him the Emperor would hold annual ceremonies which included the use of lanterns. Others point out that Tianguan, the Taoist god responsible for good fortune, has a birthday on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Coincidence? Probably not as he was known for enjoying a good party! Still others link the Festival to the arrival of Buddhism in China as followers believe that the power of the Buddha can dispel darkness. Some say that if one holds the lanterns to the night sky one can see the spirits of ancestors pass by. However like many religious festivals, today the Lantern Festival has largely become an excuse to have a big night party, eat dumplings and admire the beauty of the lanterns. And why not!
with the Western New Year, the Chinese equivalent is steeped in
superstition. Many still
honour these superstitions today although some may not even know the