Xinnian Kuaile (sshin-nyen why-luh) ! Happy New Year! This year, Chinese New Year falls on January 28th and will last until February 2nd. Unlike other country's new year celebrations, which coincide with the last day of the Gregorian calendar year, Chinese New Year is based upon the Lunar Calendar and therefore falls on a different date each year (typically between the end of January and mid February). Although Chinese New Year falls in the middle of winter, the celebration is known as "Spring Festival" in China, as the ancient solar calendar classifies the start of Spring as the period from February 4th to 18th.
Each year is assigned one of 12 zodiac signs with an associated animal. The Chinese believe that each sign has certain characteristics, which describe people born during the sign's corresponding years. 2017 is the year of the rooster - the corresponding sign of those born in 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, and 2005. Those born under the rooster are thought to be hardworking, resourceful, courageous, talented and very confident in themselves.
“Roosters are always active, amusing, and popular within a crowd. They are talkative, outspoken, frank, open, honest, and loyal individuals. They like to be the center of attention and always appear attractive and beautiful. People born under the sign of the Rooster are happiest when they are surrounded by others, whether at a party or just a social gathering. They enjoy the spotlight and will exhibit their charm on any occasion.
Roosters expect others to listen to them while they speak, and can become agitated if they don’t. Vain and boastful, Roosters like to brag about themselves and their accomplishments.
Their behavior of continually seeking the unwavering attention of others annoys people around them at times.”
Much preparation is done before Chinese New Year even begins. Homes are decorated with red decorations along with streets and public places, as red is considered a very lucky color. Most homes will also include strips of paper known as "Chunlian". These papers contain messages known as "Spring Couplets" or messages of good health and fortune. A typical decoration contains four Chinese characters in gold writing, which are known as "Hui Chun". Families will thoroughly clean their homes for the festival to rid the home of any bad feelings for the new year. It is considered bad luck to not clean one's home before the new year. The Chinese clean beforehand to avoid cleaning for at least the first three days of the new year, as they believe doing so will sweep away any good luck they have acquired. In addition to cleaning their homes, Chinese also take care to clean themselves. They do so by getting a haircut prior to the new year. It is considered unlucky to get a haircut during the new year, so some Chinese people will avoid cutting their hair for at least a month. In Chinese culture, new clothing and shoes symbolize a new beginning, and many Chinese will purchase new items for the new year. It is also common for people to purchase flowers, as flower blossoms symbolize good fortune.
(Migration of Chinese during Chinese New Year)
The New Year celebration is extremely family oriented. It is estimated that more than 200 million Chinese take long journey's to return home for the holiday celebrations. The main celebration usually begins with a family gathering and meal on New Year's Eve. Families will enjoy special treats along with typical dishes of fish or chicken. Both dishes are served whole, however the fish should not be completely eaten, as leftover fish represents a surplus at the end of the new year. It is also common for the family to exchange gifts in the form of money inside of a red envelope. Families will practice Shou Sui, or staying up until midnight together to greet the new year.
New Year's celebrations include parades with traditional Lion dances, drums, and large fireworks displays. During the Spring festival, there are hundreds of thousands of fireworks displays and millions of fireworks set off at home. The tradition is that fireworks scare away evil spirits and demons. The largest displays are lit at midnight, similar to the January 1st celebrations of other cultures. The two weeks of celebration usually end with a Lantern Festival. Families and friends come together again to eat and release lanterns into the sky. Children do not attend school throughout the holiday period, and can even go a whole month before returning to class!
(Spring Festival in Malaysia)
You may be surprised to learn that China is not the only country that celebrates Chinese New Year. Spring Festival celebrations occur in dozens of countries across the globe, with more than 2 billion people participating. Countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have huge celebrations, and smaller communities in Chinatowns around the world gather to hold events, parades, and firework shows. Public holidays lasting from one to four days are common throughout Asia, with celebrations extending for a week in Vietnam. Hong Kong is well known for its Spring Festival celebrations, as the area hosts a major horse racing festival at this time. Events also include fireworks, theatrical shows, as large displays of flowers. Western cities also hold their own Chinese New Year festivals. Most notably is the celebration in London, which sees more than half a million people taking part in organized events.
Interested in participating in Chinese New Year Events in Boston?? From now until January 27th, The China Trade Building in Boston's Chinatown is hosting a Chinese New Year Pop-Up Flower Market, selling flowers from local businesses in celebration of the New Year. On February 12th, Chinatown will host the Chinese New Year Parade and China Cultural Village, featuring classic elements of Chinese New Year celebrations, such as music, lion dancers, fireworks, and of course delicious food!
Check out our Facebook Page for more info about Lunar New Year Events and other exciting things happening in Boston!
Sources: The Mirror, Quartz, KInternational, CNN