Chinese Spring Festival, also called Chinese New Year is the most important celebration in Chinese culture. The Chinese New Year’s Day is calculated according to the traditional Chinese luna solar calendar and it falls on a different day every year.
1. How it all began
The Chinese Spring Festival originates from the legend of the monster “Nian” (年 – Chinese for “Year”). The legend said that this monster, Nian, would appear every year at the end of the winter attacking and killing people and animals. People discovered that this monster was scared of the red color, bright light and loud noise. This is how the Chinese Spring Festival traditions of fireworks, lanterns and the favored red color began.
It is not clear the exact beginning of this festival but it is believed it first took place in the years of 2000 BC.
2. Chinese Zodiac
According to the Chinese Zodiac each year is associated with one of the 12 animals form the zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
Two of these animals are very important for the Chinese Spring Festival celebration:
a) The Dragon – because it is believed that Chinese have descended from these mythical creatures ;
b) The Rabbit – because the ancient goddess Chang E had a rabbit with her on the 15th day of the New Year when it is said she jumped on the moon.
Click here to read more about the Chinese Zodiac!
3. Chinese Spring Festival Traditions
a) Decorations are a big part of the Chinese Spring Festival culture. The most common decorations used are the Upside down “Fu”, Dui Lian and, of course, the lanterns. The Chinese character 福 (“Fu”) means happiness and luck, and placing it upside down means “coming”. The character is written on a diamond shaped paper with red background and it is placed on the front door. “Dui Lian” is a pair of poetic sentences, written on red vertical paper and posted on the two sides of the front door. The lanterns are one of the most popular Chinese decorations. They are usually made out of paper, sometimes with candles inside and hanged in front of the door or inside the house.
b) Fireworks are used at midnight of the New Years Eve Day to celebrate the coming of the New Year and to scare away the evil monster Nian.
c) The New Years Eve Dinner is very important in the Chinese culture./ It is the time when all the family reunites to share the last meal of the year and celebrate for the year to come. On the New Years Eve dinner table you can always see dumplings and a plate with fish. d)The “Hong Bao” (红包) or the red envelope with money is usually given by adults and elders to children on the New Years Day. It is believed that this will protect the children from evil and keep the healthy.
There are a number of different phrases used for the celebration of the Chinese Spring Festival:
- 新年快乐 (Xin Nian Kui Le) – meaning „Happy New Year” and can also be used on the 31st of December for the Western New Yeears celebration;
- 恭喜发财 (Gong Xi Fa Cai) – translates to “Congratulations and be prosperous”;
- 过年好 (Guo Nian Hao) – meaning also „Happy New Year” but this one is used only in reference to the Chinese Spring Festival. The Chinese Spring Festival lasts a total of 15 days ending with the famous Lantern Festival.