Chinese New Year!
The extravaganza of the Chinese New Year is approaching! Many of us saw the New Year in at the stroke of midnight on January 31st. However, the Chinese New Year depends on the Lunar calendar, meaning a celebration on a different day each year (often from January 31st to February 20th.) This year it is the Lucky year of the dog.
Throughout this Blog we will take you through the Chinese New Year celebrations in China. perhaps many of you will be lucky enough to experience this for yourselves one day-it is truly a breathtaking once-in-a-life-time experience!
Chinese New Years Eve
To begin with in China, many prepare their house for the celebrations, this includes a thorough cleaning called “sweeping the dust”. This represents the desire to put away the old, bid farewell to the year passed, and welcome the New Year in.
Next it is time for the shopping! This includes all the luxurious food, decorations, clothes and gifts. Shopping in and around Chinese New Years is one of the “booming times” for the retail industry in China.
You will find many pop-up Chinese New Year Street Markets on nearly every street, selling a variety of bright and colourful New Year decorations, this certainly beats finding a MC Donald’s on every street!!
New Years Eve is the time to put up the decorations! Most houses are decorated with red lanterns, red couplets, New Year’s paintings, and of course 2018 is the year of the dog, so, dog symbols will also be included.
The Ancient Meanings Behind New Years Decorations
New Year Couplets (Chwn-lyen)
These are phrases paired together, typically consisting of 7 characters each, written on red paper in blank ink. The phrases are filled with best wishes and pinned either side of the door frames. New Year Couplets can be brought from the Street Market and is thought to keep evil away.
Pasting Door Gods Images
Pasting door god images onto the front doors symbolises blessings, health, longevity and peace, if two door gods are pasted onto double doors, this is thought to stop evil spirits from entering. In China, door gods represent power, for this reason, the images are depicted as scowling, holding weaponry and ready to fight off any evil spirits.
Putting Up New Year Paintings
New Year paintings are also red and often resemble flowers, birds, goddesses (representing fertility), treasures, harvests, historical legends and stories resembling happy life.
Putting up paper cut-outs
Paper cut-outs are placed onto north and south facing window’s, the themes of these cut-outs are to represent wealth, often depicted through farming, fishing, live stock and myths and legends. The designs are diamond-shaped and in the same lucky red colour.
Offering Sacrifices To Ancestors
A very popular ancient custom in China is to make offerings to your ancestors, this is a sign of respect and is thought the spirits of your ancestors will in return offer protection. This is performed on New Years Eve and represents the ancestors having the chance to ‘eat first’ through the offerings, before the families big ‘reunion’ meal on New Years Eve.
The Reunion Diner
Families and friends all over China travel for many miles to be together on New Years Eve, to eat together for a traditional reunion diner. This has been a custom in China for many years.
I for one would cross oceans to sit at a Chinese table and feast on the ‘Reunion Diner’!
The types of dishes may vary across Chinese tables, however there are 7 lucky foods to include in the feast
2. Spring Rolls
4. Tangyuan (Sweet Rice Balls)
7. Longevity Noodles
Giving Red Envelopes (lucky money) To Children
relatives give the younger members of the family red envelopes after the reunion diner, this is wish them good health and successful studies in the coming year. The red envelopes always contain money and is thought to bring good luck, hence the colour red, and hence the name given “luck money”
“Shousui” – Staying Up Late
This is a tradition translating as “to keep watch over the year”. Most people in China stay up late, to at least midnight and after the firecrackers/fireworks have ended. This is a similar tradition to the West, seeing the year through.
The ringing of the New Year Bell
The bell is a traditional symbol of China and often has links to the spirit world. Chinese believe that ringing a large bell on New Years Eve will drive bad luck away (or bad spirits) and bring good fortune for the New Year. it is common in China for families to gather in open squares or temples where huge bells are rung out at midnight.
For many in China, it has recently become a tradition to go to the Mountain Temples in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, to wait for the ringing of the New Year Bell in Hanshan Temple. This has become increasingly popular with the expat community in China.
Chinese New Years Day (16th February 2018)
Firecrackers And Fireworks
The tradition is to set off one small string of firecrackers, followed by 3 large fireworks. This represents “sounding out” the old year and “sounding in” the new year. The louder the last 3 fireworks are, represents better luck for business, studies and agriculture in the year to follow.
Wear New Clothes And Extend Chinese New Year Greetings
On New Years Day, Chinese wear their new clothes, it is important to look your best on the first day of the New Year.
“Start as you wish to go on”
It is also common to greet other with: “Gongxi” Meaning “respectful Joy” “Greetings” “Best Wishes”
Watching Dragon And Lion Dances
Many gather on the streets to watch parades and performances in vibrant colouful costumes with huge dragon and lions props, these performances are often lit up with firecrackers and red lanterns too! Children often perform in large groups, often rehersed for many weeks prior in schools and clubs, this is truly a breathtaking street party shared by all generations, and of course, the expat community.