Happy New Year! The Chinese New Year, also known as the celebration of spring, falls on a different date each year. The festivities continue for 15 days until a new moon is present, and then this is celebrated with the Lantern Festival. Chinese New Year involves a lot of traditions, including housecleaning, a dinner with family, giving gifts in red envelopes, fireworks and dancing people dressed up as dragons and lions.
While the Western world celebrates the new year in 1 day, Chinese New Year goes on for 2 weeks. It’s referred to as the spring festival, which is a bit odd seeing as that it’s celebrated in winter. However, it’s actually a party that looks ahead in anticipation of spring. It is celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, which is also the day where the 2nd new moon after the winter solstice appears.
Chinese New Year is filled with special traditions and routines. It even starts a month before the New Year, with the Laba Festival. This is when memorial ceremonies for ancestors take place, and a special Laba porridge is eaten, prepared with no fewer than seven different grains. There are a lot of stories surrounding this porridge, but it’s mostly symbolic of gratitude and not taking the things you have for granted.
Little New Year
Before the real New Year, there’s the Little New Year a few days beforehand. Again, people are remembered and prayers are said, but the most important activity is the thorough cleaning of your house, to drive out evil spirits. Alongside this, debts are paid and new clothing is purchased. This is all in preparation for the real New Year.
New Year’s Eve
Just like in the West, New Year’s Eve is one of the most important nights of the year. On this night, friends and family gather for a big dinner with everybody’s favourite dishes. The children receive money in red envelopes—also known as Hong Bao—and everybody stays up late to ring in the new year.
Red is the colour of the festival, because in China, red is seen as a colour that brings good luck and protects against evil spirits. Houses, streets and offices are decorated in red and the streets are filled with hanging red lanterns. People exchange gifts wrapped in red paper and light fireworks also wrapped in red.
The year of the pig
You’ll probably see a lot of images of pigs in the decorations this year, because 2019 is the year of the pig. According to the Chinese horoscope, each year has a corresponding animal, and this year, it’s the last of the Chinese zodiac animals: the pig. The pig is associated with strength, fertility and prosperity.
Dancing lions and dragons
Chinese New Year is always celebrated with dancing people dressed as lions and dragons. According to ancient legend, it was said that a predatory animal exists that eats people and could break into their houses. This predator was named Nian, and the Chinese believed that they could scare Nian away with loud noises and the colour red, which is why to this day, red fireworks are set off. The lion and dragon dancing is part of this tradition, to help ward off evil spirits.