I remember clearly the first time I was in China, when I sat in my room on a cold January day trying to do my homework for Chinese class. I couldn’t concentrate because of the noise from outside. I knew Chinese New Year had just happened a few days earlier but I didn’t understand why people kept playing with firecrackers. It was hard to make my homework during those days.
The second time I was in China during Chinese New Year, I discovered how everything in Beijing just suddenly shut down and stayed closed for two weeks straight. The empty streets and the lack of traffic jam wasn’t a common Beijing-situation and I was surprised because of the great emptiness of the oh-so crazy over-populated capital. I asked a taxi driver about this lack of people-thing and he told me how most people in Beijing came from different places in China and during the Chinese New Year everyone went back to celebrate the holiday with family and friends.
Chinese New Year is the biggest event in China and each year, Chinese travel across the country to be with family, eat a lot of food and watch the New Year show on TV. Chinese New Year is celebrated during the first fifteen days of the year according to the lunar calendar and the festival originated during the Shang Dynasty where the Chinese were fighting against a monster called Nian. He liked to eat children but was afraid of loud noises and the color red which is why the Chinese are playing around with firecrackers during those fifteen days to scare away Nian and all the other old monsters from the old year. Furthermore, the color red is used in decoration during the festivities. Red should scare Nian away before, now it’s the lucky color in China.
Chinese New Year is an old holiday and this festival includes a lot of Chinese traditions, which I’ve tried to collect and here I’ll mention the most important and interesting traditions of the Chinese New Year so you can become more familiar with this festival.
- Giving the red envelope; parents and other relatives give children red envelopes with lucky money each year. The story of this tradition dates back long time ago and long story short, another monster was threatening children but if the parents put money under their pillows, the monster would stay away (who knows why??) and then later on, the money under the pillow turned into a red envelope filled up with lucky money to children
- Eating dumplings; dumplings are just my favorite Chinese food and I was really excited when I learned that it was a specialty during Chinese New Year where we could eat them all the time (I do that anyway but that’s another story). The dumplings are mostly eaten in the northern part of China so if anyone knows what they’re eating in South China, please let me know in the comments below
- Pasting spring couplets around your door for good luck; these couplets are red with either golden or black characters paired in four with good wishes for the future. This dates back to the Ming Dynasty where the emperor like it so much so he ordered all Chinese to do it each Chinese New Year
- Clean beforehand because you can’t clean afterwards; if you clean during the first day of Chinese New Year, you’ll swipe away all good luck from your house, who wants that right? (tip; you can open windows and doors to bring in the good luck instead). You should also not take out the trash during the first day of New Year because of the same reason (this has something to do with the construction of the Chinese characters)
- Don’t cut your hair because then you’ll cut off your good luck as well, washing hair is the same problem. Don’t do this during the first few days because again, it’ll remove the prosperity and good fortune for the new year for yourself and your family (this has also something do to with the similar sounds of other characters in Chinese)
Okay, I hope you know a little bit more about Chinese New Year now. If you want to know more about this festival or other Chinese traditions, then check out this website (also my source for this article).