This year Chinese New Year – also called the Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival – began on February 19th, but don’t worry, you haven’t missed out on the festivities. There are a full 15 days of the Chinese New Year to celebrate! Let’s look at the traditions, beliefs and customs behind each day…
Before Chinese New Year:
February 18th: Prior to the New Year it’s customary to clean your home in order to sweep away any bad luck you’ve accumulated. On the eve of Chinese New Year families gather for a reunion dinner called Nian Ye Fan (Evening of the Passing). If you’re not familiar with Nian Ye Fan then think of it as Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner rolled into one.
1. February 19th:
Beginning at midnight, the first day of Chinese New Year is for welcoming the spirits and deities of heaven and earth. Shooting fireworks, lion dancing, traditional drums and burning bamboo ward of evil spirits. Red envelopes containing money are given to young and unmarried members of the family for good luck. Above all, the first day of Chinese New Year should be used to honour your family, especially your elders.
2. February 20th:
Traditionally on this day, married daughters return to their parents house to visit. Some people also consider the second day as the birthday of all dogs and give them special treats! In Hong Kong many people consider this day to be the Birthday of Che Kung – a God of Protection – and ask for his blessing.
3. February 21st:
Day three is often known as ‘red mouth’ or ‘red dog’ referring to the God of Blazing Wrath to whom paper offerings are burnt. It is very unlucky for friends or even family to visit on the third day.
4. February 22nd:
On the fourth day corporate ‘spring dinners’ are often held, the gods are honoured and fireworks are lit.
5. February 23rd:
The God of Wealth is honoured on the 5th day, people eat dumplings and firecrackers are shot in order to attract Guan Yu (a great general who helped found the state of Han).
7. February 25th:
Traditionally known as Renri, this is the day that humankind was created and everyone grows one year older.
8. February 26th:
To honour the eve of the Jade Emperor’s birthday – the ruler of heaven – another family dinner is held. Because most people have usually returned to work many employers host lunch or dinner with their employees.
9. February 27th:
The Jade Emperor’s Birthday – the ninth day – is set aside to offer him prayers and a traditional sacrifice of sugarcane.
10. February 28th:
The Jade Emperor’s Birthday is celebrated.
13. March 3rd:
After 13 days of family feasts many people eat only vegetarian food in order to cleanse their bodies. The day is also dedicated to Guan Yu – the Chinese God of War – who won over a hundred battles. He is often looked to as the God of Success or the God of Wealth.
15: March 5th:
The fifteenth and final day is the Yuanxiao Festival – commonly called the Lantern Festival in English. People eat tangyuan, rice balls filled with red bean paste, sesame paste or peanut butter. It’s believed that the balls bring happiness and good luck in the new year. Traditionally the Lantern Festival was a time of matchmaking, when chaperons would bring young couples together. Today this aspect is less common but nevertheless the reputation has stuck and many people compare it to Valentines Day.
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