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January 25 2015


Celebrating Chinese Spring Festival (Lunar New Year)

Among the various celebrations and festivities for the Chinese, Chinese New Year is always deem the most important of all. Chinese families living in different part of the country or the world will make it a point to gather together for Chinese New Year (CNY). This is very similar to the Western concept of getting together during Christmas.

Chinese New Year is also known as Lunar New Year as well as The Spring Festival. The Chinese Year is also symbolized by an animal, very much like the Western Zodiac. The animal to symbolize CNY 2006 is The Dog.

Myths of Chinese New Year

There are many myths as to how Chinese New year came about.

The most common one is that in ancient China, every year, a big monster would come out during the beginning of the year and start devouring people and crops. One day, a villager suggested firing off fire crackers, bang loud gongs and fly red banner to try to frighten off the monster.

It worked! From then onwards, people would always fire off loud fire crackers, beat gongs and drape their houses with red banner to ensure the big, bad monster never return again. Till today, Chinese New Year is still celebrated in the traditional manner.

Of course, that's just a myth. In reality, the Chinese uses a Lunar Calendar which is different from the Georgian or Western calendar, and so, the start of the Lunar new year is time for celebration, very much like New year on the Western calendar. It is also the time when crops are fully harvested and preparations are made for the new planting year and people have some time to rest and celebrate. This is why Chinese New Year is sometimes known as The Spring Festival.

Start of CNY Celebrations

CNY celebrations starts with a reunion dinner on the eve of CNY. This is where family members get together, no matter where they are in the country or the world, and sit down for a good meal. Reunion dinner is always celebrated at home but in recent years, more and more families tend to have their reunion dinner in a good restaurant.

After dinner, true to the Chinese nature, playing cards and marjong tiles will appear and a gambling session amongst familiy members will start. Once the clock strikes twelve, this is where you will hear firecrackers and fire works being fired off everywhere. The firecrackers mark the official start of CNY.

In recent years, the Chinese government has clamped down on firecrackers and fireworks in the cities because of fire hazards. Today, the lighting of fireworks is most likely to happen in the villages and countryside only.

Chinese New Year is celebrated with visiting of relatives and friends. Everyone is expected to wear new clothes and shoes and the popular color is obviously RED! There is always good food and drinks and children are rewarded with red packets or 'hong-pow' from adults. These red packets will contain money and is a major source of 'wealth' for children for the rest of the year.

Adults will chit-chat and catch up with one another. They are also likely to have gambling sessions with friendly stakes. Meantime, children will be having new year goodies, games and playing with fireworks.

In town centres and TV stations, there will be displays of dragon and lion dance, acrobats, traditional chinese dance and songs, stilt walkers, Chinese Opera, wushu performances and other traditional chinese performances.

In the olden days, festivities will last for 15 days while today, most people will celebrate for 3-4 days and spend the rest of time at home.

Chinese greetings for Chinese New Year

If you have Chinese friends, do visit them at home during CNY and you will be most welcomed. Make sure you learn a word or two of CNY greetings.

The most common are:

"Gong Xi Fa Cai" - Have a prosperous new year

"Zu Ni Nian Nian You Yu" - Wishing you a abundant year

"Sing Nian Kuay Le" - Happy New Year.

Also, you may like to bring two oranges when visiting. This indicates that you are bringing wealth to the family. If the Chinese family is someone that you are familiar with, you may even want to give red packets (containing a token sum of money) to their children. If you have children, you are most likely to receive red packets for them as well.

Chinese New Year Book by Christina Huo

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