The Chinese Lunar New Year is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600BC. The Chinese Lunar Calendar is a yearly one, with the start of the lunar year being based on the cycles of the moon. Because of this cyclical dating, the beginning of the year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February.
Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade.
Chinese New Year Dates
2004 - Jan 22 2005 - Feb 9 2006 - Jan 29 2007 - Feb 18
Usually the preparation starts a month before the new year. The preparation includes thoroughly cleaning and decorating the house, buying new clothes, and preparing enough food for at least two weeks.
Instead of presents as in the West, the Chinese give gifts of money at Chinese New Year, at weddings and birthdays. The money is usually placed in a red packet/envelope decorated with an appropriate symbol, greeting or lucky sign.
If flowers open on New Year's Day it is believed to be a symbol of good luck. The New Year is also a time to settle debts--if not both the debtor and his family will face shame.
Prior to New Year's Day, Chinese families decorate their living rooms with vases of pretty blossoms, platters of oranges and tangerines and a candy tray with eight varieties of dried sweet fruit. On walls and doors are poetic couplets, happy wishes written on red paper.
All sharp tools (knives, etc. are hidden away since they may sever good fortune from the family.
No foul language or unlucky words because it will bring bad luck to the family.
Forbidden during New Year
Handle fragile item with care. If anything breaks, the family will break up or have seven years of bad luck.
New Year’s Eve
The New Year's Eve is the time for families. The New Year Eve's dinner is the biggest dinner of the year, much like Thanksgiving dinner in the United States. The dinner is full of symbolic meaning, such as Chinese dumplings implying wealth since they have the shape of ancient Chinese gold or silver ingots.
Firecrackers are set off as soon as the new year arrives. You can hear or see firecrackers everywhere and this usually lasts for a few hours. Traditionally fireworks are the sign of getting rid of the old and welcoming the new.
New Year Greetings
Chinese New Year is also the time for socializing. People usually wear new clothes and go out to visit and greet their relatives and friends, so the streets are filled with a lot of cheerful people. The greeting and visiting can go on for a few days.
The dragon dance is an important festive tradition in China. It was originally performed to please the dragon, who is the deity of water, to ask for rain during drought years. Gradually it became an entertainment and dance form in festive occasions, usually during the Spring Festival and Lantern Festival.
The dragons, usually ranging from several meters to more than 100 meters long, are mainly made of bamboo, wood, rattan, cloth and paper, etc.
There are poles attached to the belly of the dragon. During the performance, performers hold the poles and raise the dragon, starting the grand dance with the beat of roaring drums. Sometimes a man raises a pearl and entices the dragon to follow his rhythm.
The 15th of the first month of Chinese New Year, marks the end of the New Year celebrations. It is the time for family reunion again, where families eat a kind of cake, which looks like a table tennis ball (a little smaller) made of sticky rice with sweet stuffing inside. Everyone eats a few on Lantern Festival, which symbolizes that the family will stick together.
The candy tray arranged in either a circle or octagon is called "The Tray of Togetherness" and has a dazzling array of candy to start the New Year sweetly. Each item represents some kind of good fortune.
Candied melon - growth and good health
Red melon seed - dyed red to symbolize joy, happiness, truth and sincerity
Lychee nut - strong family relationships
Cumquat - prosperity (gold)
Coconut - togetherness
Peanuts - long life
Longnan - many good sons
Lotus seed - many children
The presence of the ancestors is acknowledged on New Year's Eve with a dinner arranged for them at the family banquet table. The spirits of the ancestors, together with the living, celebrate the onset of the New Year as one great community. The communal feast is called "surrounding the stove" or weilu. It symbolizes family unity and honors the past and present generations.
On New Year's Day, the Chinese family will eat a vegetarian dish called jai. Although the various ingredients in jai are root vegetables or fibrous vegetables, many people attribute various superstitious aspects to them.
* Lotus seed - signify having many male offspring
* Ginkgo nut - represents silver ingots
* Black moss seaweed - is a homonym for exceeding in wealth
* Dried bean curd is another homonym for fulfillment of wealth and happiness
* Bamboo shoots - is a term which sounds like "wishing that everything would be well"
* Fresh bean curd or tofu is not included as it is white and unlucky for New Year as the color signifies death and misfortune