Chinese New Year firecrackers

Lunar New  Year

Chinese New Year is celebrated by Chinese all over the world! In 2008, Chinese New Year will start on 7th of February 2008 and run for 15 days. Learn about the significance of Chinese New Year for Chinese people all over the world.


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Chinese New Year

Among the various and many celebrations and festivities for the Chinese, Chinese New Year is always deemed the most important of all. Chinese families living in different part of the country or the world will make it a point to get together for Chinese New Year (CNY). This homecoming 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. Each Chinese Year is also symbolized by an animal, very much like the Western Zodiac. The animal to symbolize CNY 2008 is The Rat. In 2006, it was the Dog and in 2007, it was the Pig and in 2009, it will be the Ox. There are 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac and each animal will not appear again until 12 years later.

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(Nian) would come out during the beginning of the year and start devouring people, animals and crops. Year after year, this monster would terrify the people.

One day, a villager suggested firing off fire crackers, bang loud gongs and fly colorful red banners to try to frighten off the monster. It worked! The monster was terrified by the loud noise and color.... and disappeared as quickly as it appeared!

From then onwards, people would always fire off loud fire crackers, beat gongs and drape their houses with red banners to ensure the big, bad monster never return again. Till today, Chinese New Year is still celebrated in this 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 the most important meal of the yearl. 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 mahjong 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. Junior members of the family will need to visit senior or elderly members of th family. Everyone is expected to wear new clothes and shoes and the popular color is obviously RED or anything bright! 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. Most other Asian cities outside of China merely celebrate for two days.

Traditional Beliefs for CNY
There are many beliefs and taboos associated with Chinese New Year. Some of these include:

No sweeping or housekeeping during Chinese New Year
This is to avoid sweeping 'wealth' and 'health' out of the house

Children cannot sleep on the eve of Chinese New Year
It is believed that the longer children stay up late on CNY eve, the longer their parents will get to live

Children cannot be scolded during Chinese New Year
Parents will avoid scolding children during this period or back luck will fall on their children

Only red or bright clothes can be worn during Chinese New Year
Black or dark clothes will bring disaster for the new year

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 festive greetings for Chinese New Year are:

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

"Zhu Ni Nian Nian You Yu" - Wishing you an abundant year

"Sing Nian Kuay Le" - Happy New Year.

Also, you may like to bring two mandarin oranges when visiting someone during Chinese New Year. Oranges. looking like gold ingots, symbolizes 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 recieve red packets for them as well.

Remember to wear bright colors when you visit!

For more information about Chinese working culture and etiquette, check out this interesting China Book. Or email us for further information.