Graphic by Elliot Kim ’19
Jamie Lee ’19
Thousands of firecrackers illuminate the bright, red decorations and large preparations of food as Chinese New Year commences.
Chinese New Year officially begins Feb. 16, 2018, and after a series of special events like the Day of the Sheep and the Stone Festival, the Lantern Festival on March 2 marks the end of the celebration. Chinese New year is based off the Lunalendar, which are monthly cycles of the moon’s phases, adding up to 354 days. This is why Chinese New Year does not begin until Feb., a month after the U.S.’s New Year.
However, the celebration starts Feb. 15, New Year’s Eve. Typically, families gather for one of the most important dinners of the year, marking the reunion of people all over the world. Following the feast, children will receive their red envelopes, usually filled with money, and families will stay up late, waiting for the start of the new year.
Firecrackers will light up the morning of Feb. 16 with greetings and blessings between neighbors. On this day, people are forbidden to clean their houses because it is a sign of sweeping away all their good fortune.
Decorations are a large part of Chinese New Year and can often be seen hanging on doors or inside houses. The color red represents happiness and good fortune, as the loud color has been said to ward off evil spirits and the frightening monster, Nian, who is known in Chinese mythology as the monster who terrorizes villages and eats humans once every 365 days.
These red ornaments often include posters with certain characters to symbolize luck. The most common word is “fú,” (福) meaning blessings and good fortune. However, often, the word “fú” (福) is placed upside down. The word for “upside down” (倒 – Dào) is a homophone of “here” (到). This play on words indicates that good fortune is coming or is already here.
In addition to decorations, Chinese New Year has its fair share of myths and superstitions surrounding it. Some are more obvious; for example, one must not say negative words because it will bring misfortunes to loved ones. Others, are more far-fetched: one should not wake others up or give New Year blessings to someone still in bed. Otherwise, they will be bed-ridden for the rest of the year.
Furthermore, another important aspect of Chinese New Year is the food associated with the holiday. A lot of care and thought is put into the menu, and the dishes are meant to give blessings for the next year. Of course, the variety of food varies between households, but some common dishes are seen on every table.
One common food to bring good luck is steamed fish. The Chinese word for “fish” (鱼 – yú) has the same pronunciation as the character “余,” which means “surplus” or “extra.” The phrase to go along with this is “年年有余” (nián nián yǒuyú), which is a blessing to wish someone a surplus of food and money every year. Every dish chosen is a symbol of wishes for prosperity and auspiciousness.
Chinese zodiac animals are often associated with the new year, and this year, it is the year of the dog. The zodiac animal changes between the 12 animals every year and continues this cycle when it reaches the end. The dog is the eleventh out of the 12 zodiac animals, and they are said to be honest, loyal and reliable. However, depending on the year born, “Dogs” have slightly varying characteristics. For 2018, unfortunately, it is said that people born in the year of the dog will face many challenges.
As Chinese New Year comes to a close, the Lantern Festival officially marks the end of the 15 day long celebration. Over 2000 years ago, this festival was created to celebrate family reunions and society and often features activities including moon gazing, lighting lanterns and riddles. In the lighting of the lanterns, many different types of lanterns will be lit to send people’s wishes to the gods.
A large population of the world comes together to celebrate Chinese New Year and collectively bring good luck to loved ones, but with it comes a lot of preparation and cautious actions to ensure prosperity is not lost. For more information about Chinese New Year traditions, visit chinesenewyear2018.com.