Chinese New Year is celebrated with pomp and grandeur by millions of people across the globe. This colorful festival is rich in heritage, is primarily a family oriented function, is loaded with symbolic observances and is celebrated for fifteen days.
- When is Chinese New Year 2014?
Chinese New Year is calculated as per lunar calendar. In 2014, Chinese New Year will be celebrated on Friday, January 31, 2014.
- How is the date calculated?
Chinese New Year is traditionally calculating observing the luni-solar pattern of the calendar system. According to this system, the New Year begins from the second New Moon that falls right after the Winter Solstice and is closest to the advent of Spring (li chun) that falls typically on the eleventh month as per the Chinese Calendar. In cases where there is occurrence of a Leap Month that typically comes between the eleventh and the twelfth month, the New Year then is considered to begin from the third New Moon cycle. There are two systems of calculations where lengths of the months are computed astronomically on the basis of 120 degrees East Meridian. This gives rise to a Solar New Year; that is known as Sui, and it extends from one December Solstice to the next. The combination of the lunar and solar methods gives rise to the Nian, which forms the backbone of the Chinese calendar.
- What are the mythological stories behind Chinese New Year?
According to Chinese folklore, there was a mythical beast known as Nian who would come on the first day of every New Year to feast on livestock, agricultural produce and even people, especially little ones. To please the beast, people cooked food for him and kept outside their doorstep believing that Nian will then eat the cooked food and not cause any further harm or damage. One day, someone noticed that the beats got scared of a child who was wearing a red dress. The villagers fathomed that Nian was scared of the color red. As such, at the onset of the New Year they decorated all the homes and the village in red decorations like scrolls and lanterns. They also burst firecrackers to scare the beast away. After that Nian never came back to the villages. At a later time, the beast was captured to be mounted by the ancient Taoist monk called Hongjun Laozu.
- What is the Animal Year of Chinese New Year 2014?
Each year, according to Chinese traditions is represented by an animal. The year 2014 is going to be the Year of the Horse.
- What gave rise to the system of representing a year with an animal?
According to traditional Chinese beliefs, years occur in cycles of sixty. As per folklores, Emperor Jade called all animals for a meeting and declared that the fastest twelve to arrive will be assigned a year. The Buddhist beliefs say that Buddha beckoned all animals to bid him farewell during his departure from Earth. Only twelve animals turned out. Buddha honored these animals by assigning them a year. This forms the basis of the Chinese zodiac system and is used to predict the characteristic features of a person.
- What are the characteristics of the Horse (Chinese) Zodiac?
The Animal Horse has been assigned Fire as its element and as such the people born in this zodiac sign are warm at heart. They are full of vibrant energy, and are always throbbing with life. These people are also known for their intelligence and diligence. They enjoy the spotlight, and have flamboyant (sometimes even flashy) ways. Blessed with sharp communicative skills, these people make many friends. Friends consider them to be cheerful and talented who enjoy group activities and entertainments. People born under this zodiac are usually very clear about what they want from life; and cannot accept anything less than that in a sporting spirit or even any hurdle in their way to success. Influenced by the bling, these people often tend to get impatient and wasteful. These people should focus on accomplishing the task in hand, instead of getting involved in too many endeavors, and then leaving behind a trail of unfinished tasks.
- What are the Rituals of Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year is a traditional celebration. Many symbolisms are also involved – these traditions sometimes vary from one region to another. However, there are some common observances that are maintained by all and sundry wherever the Chinese New Year is celebrated. These rituals are discussed below –
- Spring Cleaning – Before the commencement of the New Year a thorough cleaning of the homes is done. It is believed that one should sweep out the bad luck of the year gone by so that the home is ready to welcome the positive vibes of the brand New Year.
- Prayers – Before the Reunion Dinner commences, the custom is to pray for the safe transit of the year going by, and also to pay tribute to the departed souls of the ancestors. On the New Year’s Day, many people visit shrines and make offerings to the monks. Donations are also made towards charity.
- Firecrackers – Firecrackers not only signify gaiety and cheer, but the loud noise made thereof is believed to scare away anything Evil.
- New Clothes – New clothes not only symbolize new beginning, but is also believed to be a good omen that brings hope that there would be a surplus clothing for the family to wear all through the coming year. The color red predominates for this color is believed to ward off evil. Otherwise also, bright colors are worn during the celebratory period.
- Family Portrait – The family portrait with all the members gathered around the senior most family member who sits in the center symbolize unity in the family.
- Music and Dance – Chinese New Year celebration is a noisy and joyous one where loud chorus music and Dragon or Lion dance are often organized for entertainment.
- Gifting – Small gifts of fruits are sweets are carried while visiting friends and family. Apart from these, there is the tradition of the elders gifting money (in an amount that is even in number) to the younger generation in a red envelope.
- What are the food-items associated with Chinese New Year Feasting?
No Chinese New Year celebration is complete without the family reunion dinner that is known as “Nian Ye Fan”. This is typically held at the home of the eldest member of the clan or some place near to his home. The spread offered is a huge one, and generally includes a hot pot that symbolizes the coming together of the family. Traditionally the custom was to serve 99 dishes for the number 9 is a good omen according to Chinese beliefs. There are some food items that have symbolic significance, and make to the feasting table during the Chinese New Year. Some of such food items and their significance are discussed below –
- Fish – The pronunciation of the word fish in Chinese is yu which sounds similar to the Chinese word for prosperity and surplus. It is believed to bring a surplus of money. At times, some leftover of fish is stored away to be consumed later to symbolize leftover wealth from the bygone year.
- Dumplings – These symbolize prosperity for they resemble the shape of Chinese good luck coins that are called Yuanbao (Sycee), Ingot.
- Mandarin Oranges – This is one fruit that is available in abundance during the period of the Chinese New Year. The abundance is believed to signify prosperity. As such, having mandarin oranges on the table is like wishing prosperity for the members of the family.
- Uncut Noodles – These are typically served only during the New Year. The long threads of the noodles are symbolic of long life. So serving these are like wishing longevity for one’s family members.
- Melon Seeds – These seeds are believed to represent fertility and they promise to bring the family news of new born babies in the New Year. Some other seeds like sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds too are often served.
- Chicken – Typically boiled chicken is served in the fare for the Chinese people believe that no matter how meager one’s resources may be, they should be able to afford a chicken during the New Year celebrations.
With time, modern day parties have also become part of Chinese New Year celebrations. But the rich traditions and history are never excluded, nor is family. Celebrations also differ from one region to the other; but the basic principle remains the same. All rituals are meant to welcome a New Year that brings health, happiness, wealth and growth to one and all.