Lunar New Year is celebrated by all across the world in different Asian countries, notably in China. The infographic below explains some of the important traditions families have while celebrating Chinese New Year. Each of the words in our word cloud is also significant. Here’s why!
Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year), or Spring Festival, is celebrated based on the Chinese Lunar calendar and is traditionally a time where Chinese families gather to honor their ancestors and wish for good fortune, prosperity, health and success to come upon their homes. Its origins are likely related to farmers celebrating the arrival of spring and wishing for fruitful harvests. However, the legend of Nian is credited for the beginning of Chinese New Year (see below for the full story of the monster Nian!). Lasting 15 days, most businesses in China are closed for part of all of the holiday. Overall, it’s a time of great love, joy and happiness for all those celebrating.
Before the festivities begin, families will clean their houses, decorate extensively and prepare food and gifts for the festival. Families will commonly decorate with lanterns, red paper decorations, bamboo, flower blossoms and symbols of spring, good luck, money and prosperity. One of our Chinese New Year crafts is the symbol Fú, or good luck or fortune, and can be hung upside down to symbolize luck coming to the house.
The festival starts on New Year’s Eve with the very important Reunion Dinner where extended families gather to enjoy a grand feast. Traditional foods for dinner include steamed fish, chicken, dumplings, long noodles, rice cakes, spring rolls and citrus fruit (oranges are a symbol of good luck!). Fish are an important part of the dinner – some do not eat it at all, some will leave some left over as a symbol of abundance or surplus for the year to come.
After dinner, children receive their gifts! Generally, brand new money in red envelopes :-) Then, families keep vigil for the new year to come, staying up late. Per folklore, the longer the children stay awake, the longer their parents will stay alive. People will talk, celebrate, play cards, watch TV and light fireworks to stay awake!
On January 25th, 2020, the Lunar New Year of the Rat will begin! Per the Chinese zodiac, there are twelve animals that rotate on an annual basis. Check out our Chinese New Year’s sticker craft for our zodiac stickers! Each of the following days of the festivities has a different cultural significance and ends with the Lantern Festival. During the lantern festival, lantern displays are lit throughout the streets, homes and businesses. They will also have cultural performances, including the Lion dance and Dragon dance, parades, firecrackers and martial arts demonstrations.
The Lunar New Year is also celebrated in different ways across Asia with notable celebrations in Vietnam (Tet Nguyen Dan), Korea (Seollal), Laos and Singapore, as well as many other countries.
Last year, we attended the Houston Museum of Natural Science Lunar New Year and first learned the story of Nian through a cute puppet show they put on!
The story of Nian (from https://china.mrdonn.org/newyear.html):
Once upon a time ...
A long time ago, there was a monster named Nian. Nian loved to visit a little village in China each year, and scare everybody he saw. He thought that was great fun. He liked to do this just as the new year began, to remind people that Nian was still around. Each year, after scaring all the people, could hardly wait for the new year to roll around, so that he could scare them again.
This probably would have gone on forever. But one day, just by luck, one of the villagers was wearing a red tunic. When Nian jumped out to scare him, Nian took one look at the red tunic and ran away. He startled the villager so much that the villager dropped the heavy metal bucket he had been carrying. The bucket bounced down the hill behind Nian, hitting every rock in its path. It made a horrible noise. Nian looked fearfully over his shoulder, and began running even faster.
The villager told everyone of his fabulous luck. His red tunic had scared Nian. And the noise of the bucket had sent him running away. This was good news. All year long, the villagers prepared. When Nian appeared the following year, everyone in the village ran for the red banners and the loud rattles they had made. They shook their rattles and waved their banners. And Nian ran away. The villagers never saw him again.
That's why people in China believe the color red signifies luck, and why all the children and many adults shake rattles and light firecrackers and make all kinds of noise on Chinese New Year's eve. It's to scare away evil spirits, and even Nian, just in case he's still hanging around.