Every year, more than one billion Chinese residents and many others around the world celebrate Chinese New Year. The 15-day festival, also known as Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, starts on the second new moon after the winter solstice. This year, it begins on January 28.
Before the New Year, many people clean out their houses to get rid of ghosts and bad omens from the previous year. Others get a new haircut and clothes, settle disagreements, and pay off debts in order to start fresh— much like New Year’s resolutions in Western culture.
On the eve of the new year, families gather for the most important meal of the celebration. They make foods, such as dumplings, that bring good luck to the household, and noodles, which represent a long life. A whole fish is often served for abundance and a chicken for even more good luck! The next day, people take to the streets to set off firecrackers, symbolizing the beginning of the festival. Celebrators dress in red during these 15 days and avoid wearing black, which is associated with death.
There are twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac or Sheng Xiao: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. 2017 is the year of the rooster. The most important animals in the Chinese Zodiac are the dragon and the rabbit. Dragons can be seen everywhere at Chinese New Year festivities, since the Chinese were said to have descended from the mythical creatures. On the fifteenth day of the celebration, many people display lanterns in the shape of rabbits, symbolizing the Chinese goddess Chang E, who is said to have brought a rabbit with her when she jumped on the moon.
KIWI mom Thanh Woody shares her family’s favorite way to celebrate: “On Chinese New Year’s Eve, we enjoy getting together with the rest of the family and having a big meal after a prayer ritual. The kids enjoy getting dressed up and receiving red envelopes filled with money from their elders.” These red envelopes, called Hong Bao are a symbol of good luck. They are usually filled with an even amount of money or coins, since odd numbers are unlucky. For directions to make your own money envelopes, click here.
Do you celebrate Chinese New Year traditions? Share your story in the comments.