Friday, February 8, 2013

Global Holidays: Ssssnakes are in Season This Chinese New Year

Most people have heard of the Chinese Zodiac calendar that associates you with an animal, depending on what year you were born. For example, because I was born after the Chinese new year date in 1993, I am a rooster. Cock-a-doodle-doooo!!  However, most people don’t know much about the holiday behind the horoscope or what it means. I’m here to introduce you, dear readers, to the basics of this interesting holiday and where it came from.
Chinese New Year is a period of several days that used to be considered the first days of the year according to the ancient lunar-solar calendar that the Chinese were accustomed to before the world adopted the standard calendar that we have today, and it always falls between Janurary 21 and February 21 on the first new moon. This year it falls on Sunday, February 10, 2013.

Since they adopted the standard calendar, the holiday is now called the Spring Festival, but it remains to be a very important social and economic holiday in China. However, you may not know that Japan, Vietnam, and Korea all celebrate during this time as well!  

In the ancient days, Chinese New Year was traditionally meant as a celebration to honor their deities and ancestors as they ushered in a new period, and many of the traditions observed during the day reflect those that they performed historically. Here are a few interesting things they do to prepare:
  • Rigorous cleaning is performed on the entire house in order to sweep away bad luck and make room for better luck during the new year.
  • Decorations made to display characters for luck, wealth, health, and other good things are prepared and hung up around houses to attract these things into their home
  • At or near midnight, people shoot off fireworks to scare away evil spirits
  • Red is used for decorations and clothing for the new year because it is a very auspicious color in the Chinese culture
  • On New Year’s Day, children wake up to little red envelopes under their pillow with candy and money as gifts from their parents and grandparents.
  • On the fifteenth day of the month, the festivities end with the lantern festival where people make lanterns and hang them at their house or parade in the streets with paper dragons

As with many holidays celebrated around the world, there is a large demand for feasting during the new year period. The staples vary according to what region the family is from in China, but every New Year’s Eve, families come together to enjoy a large meal together.

In the north, people eat djiaozi - a steamed dumpling and in the south they might eat nian gao - a sticky, sweet rice pudding. Long noodles are eaten to symbolize a long life, while buns shaped like the full moon represent the perfection of family. You can read more about symbolic dishes served during the holiday here.  

As I mentioned at the beginning, the Chinese New Year plays a part in the Chinese Zodiac, which is part of the ancient calendar that associated each year with one of twelve animals that rotate and restart when every twelve year cycle is over. This year is the year of the snake.Want to know what your sign is? See below!

Rat 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008
Ox 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009
Tiger 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010
Rabbit 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011
Dragon 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012
Snake 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013
Horse 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014
Sheep 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015
Monkey 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016
Rooster 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 2017
Dog 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 2018
Pig 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019

If you want to know what your result means, check out  this website!

If you’re interested in experiencing some of the traditions associated with this holiday, I suggest visiting San Francisco during the time of the holiday, as it boasts the largest celebration of the holiday outside of mainland China. 

On that note, go out and celebrate! Gung hei fat choi! Happy Chinese New Year!

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