A paper dragon - a traditional part of New Year celebrations!
We all know when New Years’ Day is in most Western Countries. It is, of course, the 1st of January, when most of us either spend the day relaxing, and nursing our hangovers from last night’s celebrations.
But did you know that in China, Korea and Vietnam, the new year actually begins a month later, on the first of February? This is because these countries follow the Lunar Calendar, rather than the Solar Calendar – for them, a month is the time it takes for the phase of the moon to change, instead of a year being the time it takes for the earth to rotate around the sun : 365 days!
Although several countries celebrate their New Year at this time, the day is most commonly known across the world as Chinese New Year : and Ingla visited Chinatown in London last week to celebrate the new year!
Historians think that celebration of the New Year on the first day of the lunar calendar dates back to the Shang Dynasty in Imperial China.
Emperor Wu of Han (140-87 BC) introduced the performance of rituals on the first day of the lunar calendar : these rituals were done to get the favour of the gods, celebrate a (hopefully) good harvest from the last year, and pray for an even better one in the next year!
Traditional New Year Celebrations were banned from 1949 under the rule of the Communist Party, but a week-long vacation was reintroduced in 1996, which meant that the people of China could take a week off over the new year!
But, did you know that Chinese New Year is celebrated in many places all across the world? San Francisco in California, U.S.A, has the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations outside of Asia, which it has held since the 1860s. This was when many Chinese immigrants moved to the USA.
Here is how you say ‘Happy New Year’ in Mandarin!
Chinese New Year Customs
During the celebrations of Chinese New Year, it is traditional to decorate your homes with the colour red, and wear red, as this is said to scare away ‘Nian’ – a lion-like monster that is terrified of the colour red!
Nian – a scary monster, unless you have anything red!
When it comes to food, fish is very important, as the Chinese word for ‘fish’ sounds the same as the word for ‘surplus’, or ‘abundance!’
Generosity is also an important part of the celebrations : people often give out money to their loved ones, children and employees in ‘lai see’ satchels.
These satchels are also red, which, as we can see, is a very important colour for Chinese New Year!
It also, of course, would not be a new year celebration without fireworks! Chinese New Year is full of fireworks, with bangs, crackles and wheezes galore, with enthralling colours for everyone to see!
Again, along with the colour red, it is believed that the noise of the fireworks scares away the evil ‘Nian’ lion creature!
Finally, the days before new year are a traditional time for cleaning in China! The Chinese words for ‘dust’ and ‘old’ are, again, very similar in Mandarin, so sweeping away the dust is like replacing the old with the new!
But be careful not to do any cleaning on the first day of the new year – otherwise, you’re wiping away your new good luck!
The new year celebration ends with the Lantern festival – when hundreds of beautiful paper lanterns are set to drift into the sky. It represents peace and forgiveness.
The Animals Of The Zodiac
As you may already know, each new year is represented by an animal of the Chinese zodiac, which repeats in a twelve-year cycle.
It’s said that the Jade Emperor, a holy figure in Chinese mythology, called the twelve animals to his palace for a race, and the order is the Zodiac is the order they finished in the race!
The 12 zodiac animals, in order, are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
You can find out which year you were born in here!
This new year, 2022, is the year of the tiger – which means last year was the year of the ox, and next year will be the year of the rabbit.
So have you learned about Chinese New Year? Do the activities below to find out!
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