On Saturday, January 28, Chinese communities around the world will begin a two-week celebration to usher in the Chinese New Year. Also called the Spring Festival, the holiday whose dates are determined by the lunar calendar, is the grandest and most famous of all Chinese festivals. To enable residents to be with their families and friends, most employers in China give their workers at least seven days of vacation. Schools and universities are closed for an entire month.
With millions of people heading home to their respective villages or towns, this is the country’s busiest travel period. Officials estimate that Chinese residents will make almost 3 billion trips between January 28 and February 11, resulting in the largest seasonal human migration in the world.
During the two weeks, residents spring clean their homes and offices and reunite with friends and family members. Since red, the symbol of fire, is considered auspicious and believed to keep evil spirits at bay, it is the color of choice for clothes and decorations. Kids and young adults often receive red envelopes containing cash from their parents and grandparents.
The celebrations end on the day of the full moon (Feb 11), with a Lantern Festival. As the name indicates, it involves hanging red lanterns in homes and temples. Residents also participate in parades, the highlight of which is the dragon dance. The traditional dance involves using strategically placed poles to manipulate a colorful dragon made of silk and paper. Since the animal is considered lucky, communities try to maximize their good fortune by building the longest possible dragons.
Of course, no festival is complete without a feast. While the menu varies, most meals will incorporate traditional dishes like long uncut noodles, which signify longevity, and whole chickens that symbolize family togetherness. Wealth and prosperity are represented by dumplings that look like ingots (ancient Chinese currency) and spring rolls, which resemble gold bars. Additionally, for big feasts, families will offer eight or nine food items because in the Chinese culture, eight represents success, while nine, symbolizes infinity. They will also avoid serving four dishes, because the word for the number sounds similar to the word death in Cantonese and is, therefore, considered unlucky.
While primarily known as the “Chinese” New Year, the day is also celebrated in neighboring Asian countries like Thailand and Singapore. In Vietnam the festival is called Tet and though the traditions are similar, the celebrations last for just seven days.
As you probably know, every Chinese year is characterized by one of twelve animals that make up the Chinese Zodiac, as well as one of five elements: metal, water, wood, fire or earth. Both the sign and element are believed to affect an individual's personality and fate.
2017, the tenth in the 12-year zodiac cycle, is the “Year of the Rooster” and includes those born in 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017. People governed by this animal sign have many good qualities; they are loyal, resourceful, courageous, talented, and, similar to their zodiac animal, extremely punctual. They are, however, also known to be selfish, vain, and impatient.
Chinese astrologers believe that 2017 will not be a good year for those born under this sign and predict they will suffer financial losses and experience bad health. As for the world in general? According to astrologyclub.org, the Rooster’s fiery temperament will help add enthusiasm and energy to the general public and increase hopes for better prospects. However, they also caution that it is a year when many leaders will be concerned about protecting their homeland and seek to impose hard-line policies. Fortunately, they also predict that while many threats will be made, there will be very little action taken.
Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Happy New Year!)
Resources: Chinahighlights.com, astrologyclub.org, newsobserver.com, wikipedia.org