It wasn’t long ago when the whole world celebrated the arrival of the New Year with open arms and the sky was decorated with breathtaking fireworks. People gave gifts to each other, made resolutions, traveled to new places, fulfilled promises, made new friends and whatnot. The world was a beautiful sight to behold. However, there is something unique that goes along with China when it comes to the New Year. Chinese New Year is the Chinese festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. The festival is labeled as the Spring Festival in mainland China, and is one of several Lunar New Years in Asia.
In 2019, Chinese New Year officially begins on February 5th, 2019, initiating the Year of the pig, and ends on February 19th. During the festival, the biggest event of any Chinese New Year's Eve is the annual reunion dinner. The gathering raises a toast to the sumptuous tradition of China and includes dishes of meat and fish.
Xinwen Lianbo, a daily news programme produced by China Central Television stated in 2001- “Red couplets and red lanterns are displayed on the door frames and light up the atmosphere. The air is filled with strong Chinese emotions. In stores in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, and other cities, products of traditional Chinese style have started to lead fashion trends. Buy yourself a Chinese-style coat, get your kids tiger-head hats and shoes, and decorate your home with some beautiful red Chinese knots, then you will have an authentic Chinese-style Spring Festival.”
Amidst the hustle and bustle, there are a lot of myths, customs and facts that surround the Chinese New Year. A Voice from Far Away brings to you 10 things you didn’t know about the Chinese New Year.
No particular date for the Chinese New Year
If you go in accordance with the Lunar Calendar, the Spring Festival begins on January 1st and ends on January 15th. However, the first day of Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that appears between January 21st and February 20th. Therefore, it is a fact that most people get confused with as they believe the Chinese New Year would begin on the same day every year.
Nian- The mythical beast connection
According to Chinese legends and people, the beginning of the Chinese New Year started with a mythical beast called the Nian. Nian is a beast that lives under the sea or in the mountains, and its first notable mention goes back to the early 20th century. Several practices during the celebration such as wearing red clothing and creating noise from drums and fireworks are inspired by a story of a brave boy. Nian would come out on every New Year’s Eve and people would run back to their homes scared and terribly intimidated. However, a young brave boy gathered the courage to fight Nian by lighting firecrackers. His attempt had worked and the next day people lit up more firecrackers to celebrate their survival. Hence, this tradition of fireworks became a crucial part of the Chinese New Year.
The Reunion Dinner leads to the largest human migration in the world
There is no way that any Chinese family would miss the reunion dinner during the Spring Festival. That leads to children living in the metropolitan cities of China rush back to unite with their parents living in rural villages. The earliest you can buy train tickets is 60 days before. It leads to an insane hue and cry for tickets and in 2015; statistics showed that around 1,000 tickets were sold each second.
Even on the normal work days, the subways are absolutely stacked with people fighting against each other to reach what seems to be a destination afar, the exit door. The migration back home and to go on vacation is called Chunyun or Spring Migration.
Singles take fake boy/girlfriends to home
Well, this is a rather unusual trend that surrounds the Spring Festival but guess what, it is real. This is inspired by the passionately inquisitive relatives in China that ask the young people questions about their personal and professional life. Therefore, many get desperate and hire themselves a fake partner to show off, and those who can’t or aren’t willing to rent themselves out.
All is red for the Chinese New Year
China is painted red during the Spring Festival, and it has something to with the monster Nian. Apparently, firecrackers aren’t the only thing that helps ward off the ravenous beast. The Chinese hang up red lanterns and strings of chili peppers, paste red paper onto doors and windows, and more.
To begin the New Year on a good note and draw some luck toward their lives, people buy red clothing and start the festival afresh.
Qiang Hongbao (snatching red pockets) for the Spring Festival
During the Spring Festival, gifts are exchanged within people but the Chinese New Year presents a different tradition, that sees children receive special money-filled red envelopes by their elders as a token of fortune. They can also be given between bosses and employees, co-workers, and friends. Also, the emergence of technology led to digital red pockets that are the trend now. People like to send one into group chats and watch the others fight for the money.
Don’t shower, sweep or throw out the garbage
The Spring Festivals struggles with a lot of taboos and unusual beliefs; this one has everything to do with the luck. Don’t shower, because you sure don’t want to wash away the good luck. On the other hand, there’s a day before the Spring Festival dedicated to cleaning. This day is to sweep the bad luck away and make room for the good.
There are a lot of other taboos as well, such as don’t go for a haircut, don’t say unlucky words such as “death” and “sickness”, don’t break any objects and many more.
A zodiac animal for every year
There are 12 Chinese zodiac animals that represent the years, 2019 is the year of the pig. These signs are an integral part in the Chinese culture, and they help determine your fortune for the year. Some of the animals such as Rat, Snake, Dog and Pig aren’t normally much admired in Chinese culture. But as a zodiac, their positive traits are bestowed on people born that year.
Your animal helps you unearth the secrets of personal success in terms of health, money and relationships.
Xin Nian Kuai Le
The phrase “xin nian kuai le” literally translates to “Happy New Year” in Chinese, which is the New Year greeting there. However, in Hong Kong and other Cantonese-speaking regions, it's more common to say “gong hei fat choy.” In Mandarin Chinese, it's “gong xi fa cai”. It means “congratulations on the fortune.”
Lantern Festival is the final act of the Chinese New Year
Preparations begin the 16th, and the Lantern Festival is held on February 19th in 2019. The first full moon of the Lunar year is dedicated in the name of the Lantern Festival which brings partying, freedom and high-spirited celebrations. In ancient times, girls weren’t allowed to go outside by themselves. However, on this night, they were allowed to walk around, moon-gaze and look at the beautiful lanterns. For this reason, it’s also known as Valentine’s Day in China.