The festivities celebrating the Chinese New Year, which marks the beginning of the Chinese calendar, can last for approximately 15 days. The Chinese New Year celebration is also known as the "Spring Festival" or the "Lunar New Year" and is the most important festival within the Chinese culture.
When is the Chinese New Year Celebrated?
The Chinese New Year falls between the December solstice and the March equinox. Because of this, the dates can vary annually. Every year, an animal of the Chinese Zodiac is assigned. There are 12 animals. It is believed that these 12 animals were the only ones that gave homage to Buddha. The Chinese New Year is recognized in other countries besides China. These countries include North Korea, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
The legend of the Chinese New Year varies depending on the storyteller. However, each version has to do with a monster named Nian (the Chinese word for "year"). Nian is portrayed as a lion-like being that preyed on villagers in rural China. According to the legend, an old wise man advised the terrified villagers to scare Nian away with loud noises, including firecrackers and drums. He also advised them to install red hangings in their windows and doors, because Nian was scared of the color red. The Chinese New Year is celebrated each year in remembrance of the defeat of Nian.
Traditions and Symbols
The Chinese New Year's traditions center around the 15 days of the festival. Each day is associated with a different type of celebration. Some of these include bosses having lunch with workers to thank them for their work (the eighth day), welcoming deities with firecrackers and burning bamboo sticks (the first day), and married women visiting their parents (the second day). On the last day of the festival is the Lantern Festival, during which the new year is celebrated with family meals, decorated lanterns, and dragon dances.
Red is the traditional color of the festival. Red envelopes and packets are given to friends and loved ones throughout the festival containing even amounts of money. People also wear red clothing throughout the festival to protect themselves from evil spirits. Fireworks are another traditional practice during the festival, due to their significance in the legend of the defeat of Nian. Bouquets of flowers are also common throughout the festival, with different symbolic meanings attached to specific flowers.