9 Things to Know About Chinese New Year Slideshow
December 22, 2015
It's almost New Year's Eve in Western culture, but before you know it, the Chinese New Year will be upon us
9 Things to Know About Chinese New Year
The Chinese zodiac is represented by animal signs. Unlike Western signs, which generally hold sway for a period of about a month, in Chinese culture each year has a different sign, which comes into prominence on the occasion of Chinese New Year. That holiday was originally connected to the Chinese lunar-solar calendar and represented a time to honor ancestors, as well as household and heavenly gods. It was also traditional for families to feast together on the occasion. After China started following the Western calendar in 1912, the country adopted January 1 as New Year’s Day, but that doesn’t mean the traditional Chinese New Year fell by the wayside – a shorter celebration is enjoyed with a new name: the Spring Festival. Even if you don’t reside in China, we’re sure you’ve still heard about some of the festivities that take place. But do you know how many fruits to put in a bowl without invoking bad fortune? Or that you could be missing your pet’s birthday? And why is everything in red? With the holiday coming up early in February, we’ve spotlighted 9 things you probably didn’t know about the Chinese New Year.
Pressure is on college kids — and not just about good grades, but about marriage, too. Around the New Year celebration, it is customary to visit family. In China, kids sometimes hire “fake” girlfriends or boyfriends to bring home to Mom and Dad, for a rental price ranging from about $20 to as much as $600 a day!
The act of giving and receiving money in red envelopes is a well-observed custom of Chinese New Year. This act symbolizes sharing your blessings, i.e. earning a wage. And if you’re not married, then you don’t have to worry about giving them out, only receiving. Etiquette tip: It is considered impolite to open the envelope in front of the person who gave it to you, so if you receive one, just save it for later.
Monday, February 8th marks the beginning of Chinese New Year for 2016, which is the Year of the Monkey! If you were born in 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, or 2016, then it’s all about you. Expect to have a challenging year if you’re a monkey. Some hardship is forecast — but don’t worry! Seek the blessing of lucky stars to turn things around. At least you have a potentially prosperous career and unexpected fortune headed your way, so things should work out in your favor. Just avoid gambling and letting greed get the best of you this year.
Nianhua are traditional decorations and pictures hung around the homes during the Spring Festival. The imagery depicts prosperity and good luck through iconic figures of plump babies with giant fish. At one point the Chinese government got involved and it changed to the kids washing dishes and doing house chores. After more freedom was granted, the fish-holding babies returned. The pictures remain even after the New Year to continue to promote enduring optimism.
The color red represents all good things, like good luck, celebration, happiness and joy, energy, good fortune, etc. It’s only appropriate that this color makes a huge appearance during the New Year celebration. You’ll find it in clothing, the envelopes used to gift money, paper cut-outs used to decorate windows, and even in weddings that occur during the holiday.
Chinese New Year is celebrated with many traditional beliefs. Among these, you shouldn't clean your house for the first three days. During the entire Spring Festival season, you shouldn’t use scissors or knives (for fear of cutting off good luck), cry, or wear black. On the first day, you shouldn’t wash your hair, wash your clothes, or eat porridge. It’s encouraged that people make sure to pay off old debts to start the New Year with a clean slate. Perhaps that’s one belief that's really good advice.
If you’re planning a party spread to ring in the New Year, you might want to consider adding these items to the menu. Start with a bowl of fruit, including tangerines and oranges. But don’t group them into sets of four — this could be bad luck. Long noodles, whole fish, and leafy greens also presage long life and abundant luck. And, of course, what party would be complete without rice cakes to celebrate the new rice harvest in the spring?