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Spring Festival N Chinese New Year Information

<u>Traditional Celebration of the Chinese New Year </u></b> Of all the traditional Chinese festivals, the New Year was perhaps the most elaborate, colorful, and important. This was a time for the Chinese to congratulate each other and themselves on having passed through another year, a time to finish out the old, and to welcome in the New Year. <u>Turning Over a New Leaf </b></u> The Chinese New year is celebrated on the first day of the First Moon of the lunar calendar. The corresponding date in the solar calendar varies from as early as January 21st to as late as February 19th. Chinese New Year, as the Western New Year, signified turning over a new leaf. Socially, it was a time for family reunions, and for visiting friends and relatives. This holiday, more than any other Chinese holiday, stressed the importance of family ties. The Chinese New year's Eve dinner gathering was among the most important family occasions of the year. <u>Sweeping of the Grounds </b></u> Preparations for the Chinese New Year in old China started well in advance of the New Year's Day. The 20th of the Twelfth Moon was set aside for the annual housecleaning, or the "sweeping of the grounds". Every corner of the house must be swept and cleaned in preparation for the New Year. Spring Couplets, written in black ink on large vertical scrolls of red paper, were put on the walls or on the sides of the gate-ways. These couplets, short poems written in Classical Chinese, were expressions of good wishes for the family in the coming year. In addition, symbolic flowers and fruits were used to decorate the house, and colorful New Year pictures (NIAN HUA) were placed on the walls (for more descriptions of the symbolism of the flowers and fruits. </b> <u>Kitchen God </b></u> After the house was cleaned it was time to bid farewell to the Kitchen God, or Zaowang. In traditional China, the Kitchen God was regarded as the guardian of the family hearth. He was identified as the inventor of fire, which was necessary for cooking and was also the censor of household morals. By tradition, the Kitchen God left the house on the 23rd of the last month to report to heaven on the behavior of the family. At this time, the family did everything possible to obtain a favorable report from the Kitchen God. On the evening of the 23rd, the family would give the Kitchen God a ritualistic farewell dinner with sweet foods and honey. Some said this was a bribe, others said it sealed his mouth from saying bad thins. Free from the every-watchful eyes of the Kitchen God, who was supposed to return on the first day of the New Year, the family now prepared for the upcoming celebrations. In old China, stores closed shop on the last two or three days of the year and remained closed for the first week of the New Year. Consequently, families were busy in the last week of the old year stocking up on foods and gifts. Chinese New Year presents are similar in spirit to Christmas presents, although the Chinese tended more often to give food items, such as fruits and tea. The last days of the old year were also the time to settle accumulated debts. <u>Family Celebration</u></b> On the last day of the old year, everyone was busy either in preparing food for the next two days, or in going to the barbers and getting tidied up for the New Year's Day. Tradition stipulated that all food be pre-pared before the New Year's Day, so that all sharp instruments, such as knives and scissors, could be put away to avoid cutting the "luck" of the New Year. The kitchen and well were not to be disturbed on the first day of the Year. The New Year's Eve and New Year's Day celebrations were strictly family affairs. All members of the family would gather for the important family meal on the evening of the New year's Eve. Even if a family member could not attend, an empty seat would be kept to symbolize that person's presence at the banquet. At midnight following the banquet, the younger members of the family would bow and pay their respects to their parents and elders. <u>Lai-See</u></b> On New Year's Day, the children were given Red Lai-See Envelopes, good luck money wrapped in little red envelopes. On New Years day, everyone had on new clothes, and would put on his best behavior. It was considered improper to tell a lie, raise one's voice, use indecent language, or break anything on the first day of the year. Starting from the second day, people began going out to visit friends and relatives, taking with them gifts and Lai-See for the children. Visitors would be greeted with traditional New year delicacies, such as melon seeds, flowers, fruits, tray of togetherness, and NIANGAO, New Year cakes. <u>Everybody's Birthday</u></b> The entire first week was a time for socializing and amusement. On the streets, the stores were closed and an air of gaiety prevailed. There were numerous lion dances, acrobats, theatrical shows, and other diversions. Firecrackers, which symbolized driving away evil spirits, were heard throughout the first two weeks of the New Year. The Seventh Day of the New Year was called "everybody's birthday" as everyone was considered one year older as of that date. (In traditional China, individual birthdays were not considered as important as the New Year's date. Everyone added a year to his age at New Year's time rather than at his birthday.) <u>Terminology & Symbolism </b></u> Chinese Lunar Calendar: The Chinese calendar will often show the dates of both the Gregorian (Western) calendar and the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The Gregorian dates are printed in Arabic numerals, and the Chinese dates in Chinese numerals. Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, and is constructed in a different fashion than the Western solar calendar. <u>Family Associations </b></u> </b> Organized according to family surnames, such as the Wong Family Association, etc., are social clubs or lodges which were first set up in Chinatown to serve the social and personal needs of Chinese workers. <u>Flowers </b></u> Flowers are an important part of the New Year decorations. In old China, much use was made of natural products in celebrations as well as in daily life. The two flowers most associated with the New Year are the plum blossom and the water narcissus <u>Lai-See Envelopes (Also called Hong-Bao) </b></u> Money is placed in these envelopes and given to children and young adults at New Year's time, much in the spirit as Christmas presents. Presents are also often exchanged between families. <u>Lucky Character </b></u> The single word " FOOK ", or fortune, is often displayed in many homes and stores. They are usually written by brush on a diamond-shaped piece of red paper. <u>Plum Blossoms</b> </b></u> Stand for courage and hope. The blossoms burst forth at the end of winter on a seemingly lifeless branch. In Chinese art, plum blossoms are associated with the entire season of winter and not just the New Year. <u>Spring Couplets </b></u> Spring couplets are traditionally written with black ink on red paper. They are hung in storefronts in the month before the New Year's Day, and often stay up for two months. They express best wishes and fortune for the coming year. There is a great variety in the writing of these poetic couplets to fit the situation. A store would generally use couplets hat make references to their line of trade. Couplets that say "Happy New Year" and " Continuing Advancement in Education" are appropriate for a school. <u>Tangerines, Oranges, Pomelos</u></b> Tangerines and oranges are frequently displayed in homes and stores. Tangerines are symbolic of good luck, and oranges are symbolic of wealth. These symbols have developed through a language pun, the word for tangerine having the same sound as "luck" in Chinese, and the word for orange having the same sound as "wealth". Pomelos are large pear-shaped grapefruits. <u>Tray of Togetherness </b></u> Many families keep a tray full of dried fruits, sweets, and candies to welcome guests and relatives who drop by. This tray is called a chuen-hop, or "tray of togetherness". Traditionally, it was made up of eight compartments, each of which was filled with a special food item of significance to the New Year season. <u>Water Narcissus </b></u> Flower that blossoms at New Year's time. If the white flowers blossom exactly on the day of the New Year, it is believed to indicate good fortune for the ensuing twelve months. <u>Chinese Zodiac</u></b> The rotating cycle of twelve animal signs was a method for naming the years in traditional China. The animal signs for one another in an established order, and are repeated every twelve years.

- www.c-c-c.org/chineseculture

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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