Today is Chinese New Year, also popularly known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year. It is the longest and most important traditional festivity for Han Chinese.
The origin of Chinese New Year celebration („Guo Nian“, 过年 in Chinese) is no longer known. But the tale that most people tell as the reason is that the word year, “Nian(年)“. In Chinese this was originally the name of a monster which always preyed on people the night before new year. To save the people a kindhearted immortal changed himself into an old man. He then told the people to put up red paper decorations on their windows and doors and light fire-crackers. They were to repeat this every new year’s eve to scare away the monster Nian in case it sneaked back again. From that day on people kept the custom of new year celebration. The tradition continues till today although people have long forgotten that the original reason of “Guo Nian“ was to “survive Nian“. They now understand “Guo Nian“ as “celebrate the (new) year“.
Chinese New Year festival begins on new year eve and ends on the 15th January in the Lunar Calendar. Some days before the new year, people already start buying all kinds of food. They also start decorating their doors, windows and walls with red couplets, paper cutlings and challigraphy drawings (see pictures above). They use positive themes such as “fu“ * – “happiness” (see picture above), “lu“ – “wealth”, and “shou“- “longevity”. It is also a tradition that every family thoroughly cleans their home before the new year begins. This is done to sweep away the dirt and illness and to make room for good luck (It matches my blog 8: Love Fengshui Tip: Make Space for What you Really Want).
Although there are different regional customs and traditions for the New Year celebration, all families in China try to get together on new year’s eve and have a reunion dinner with their family.
In my home town on new year’s eve we always eat „Jiaozi“, delicious dumplings cooked in boiling water (see picture above). They symblise a safe and lucky year. After dinner we sit together and watch the Chinese new year party on TV, chat and wait until midnight. Just before midnight all the families go outside and light long lines of small firecrackers and fireworks to welcome the new year. The whole sky is lit brightly and looks very fantastic.
On the first morning of the new year (today would be same if I were in China), we get up early and wear new clothes which our parents had bought for us. All the children greeted their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year. In return our parents give us a new red envelop containing money.
Although I cannot celebrate the Chinese New Year with my parents this year, I cooked Jiaozi and wrote this blog to express my warm memories for this important celebration.
* About Calligraphy „Fu“
„Fu“ means good fortune and happiness. Many people hang red “Fu“ pictures up side down on purpose. Up side down the word reads „dǎo“, which sounds almost the same as the word “dao`“, which means arrive. So it suggests that the good fortune arrives.