A fifteen-day festival with a four thousand-year history
Chinese New Year and now the year of the monkey, begins with the Spring Festival on February 8, and continues for fifteen days, ending with the Lantern Festival. In addition to new beginnings, Chinese New Year traditionally marks a time of good wishes, family, and cultural celebration.
To embrace the new year, people begin preparations that represent throwing away the old, and bringing in the new. This includes cleaning the house to sweep out the old and buying new clothes. Decorations from paper cutouts to Chinese knots and fruit, for channeling luck, are posted on doors . Even these festive hangings have meaning in themselves, either from legends or puns.
Outdoors, the streets explode with color on New Years. Red and gold, symbolizing wealth and prosperity, can be found in everything, from food to decorations to clothing. Brilliant colors flash from stalls, traditional dances, and other performances. At night, firecrackers punctuate the fireworks with sparks of light and sharp pops. Even in less populated areas, lights and noise run all day.
Out of everything this festival encompasses, food and family are the uniting themes that run through Asia. People traditionally eat dumplings, fish, noodles, sticky rice cakes, and fruit. The Lantern Festival is celebrated with glutinous rice ball soup. Like the decorations, these dishes homophonic connection serve as an anchor for blessings and good tidings. Moreover, this joyous occasion is best shared with family, and thus marks a giant reunion that brings generations together. Children offer wishes of good health to their elders, and in return, receive red envelopes. On a more somber note, families take time to pay respects to their ancestors and those who recently passed away. Most importantly, this is a time to just enjoy one another’s company, and highlights the significance of family in Chinese culture.
Although celebrated worldwide, Chinese New Year is most fully showcased at home in the East. It is the equivalent of the holiday season, extending from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, in the United States, complete with feasting, festivities, and family.