Gong Xi Fa Cai! …. or Happy Chinese New Year ….. the Year of the Water Dragon is upon us.
Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is known as “Spring Festival,” the literal translation of the Chinese name 春節, since the spring season in Chinese calendar starts with lichun, the first solar term in a Chinese calendar year. It marks the end of the winter season, analogous to the Western carnival. The festival begins on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. Chinese New Year’s Eve, a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner, is known as Chúxī (除夕) or “Eve of the Passing Year.” Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the “Lunar New Year”.
Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese calendar. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, such as Mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and also in Chinatowns elsewhere. Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the lunar new year celebrations of its geographic neighbors. These include Korean (Seollal), Bhutanese (Losar), and Vietnamese cultures.
Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese new year vary widely. People will pour out their money to buy presents, decoration, material, food, and clothing. It is also the tradition that every family thoroughly cleans the house to sweep away any ill-fortune in hopes to make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red colour paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of “good fortune” or “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”. On the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with families. Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies. The family will end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.
Although the Chinese calendar traditionally does not use continuously numbered years, outside China its years are often numbered from the reign of the Yellow Emperor. But at least three different years numbered 1 are now used by various scholars, making the year beginning in AD 2012 the “Chinese Year” 4710, 4709, or 4649.