The Chinese New Year’s Origin and History

Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, celebrated in other East Asian countries, such as Singapore and South Korea. It is also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival.

This celebration has important cultural connotations as a tradition, not only as a remembrance of ancestors in a strict family union, but also as a wish for the best omens, fortune, good luck, and protection from evil in the coming year.

What is it and when is it celebrated?

This festivity is based on the lunisolar calendar traditionally used in China, based on the phases of the Sun and the Moon. The celebration of the Chinese New Year dates back more than 3,000 years. It begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice and lasts fifteen days, marking the end of winter and the arrival of the lunar New Year. In the year 2021, the Chinese New Year will begin on February 12.

2021: The Year of the Ox

According to the Chinese horoscope for 2021 corresponds to the Year of the Golden or Metal Ox. The Chinese horoscope signs are determined by the Chinese lunar calendar, with the beginning of the Chinese New Year. If you were born in any of the following years, your Chinese horoscope sign is undoubtedly the Ox: 2021, 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961.

According to the tradition and beliefs of the Chinese Horoscope, the characteristics that will govern the Year of the Ox are the following:

  1. It will be a year characterized by order, discipline, effort, and family relationships.
  2. The lucky numbers will be 1 and 4, in all their combinations.
  3. It is advisable to use the colors white, yellow, silver, gray and green. Blue should be avoided.
  4. It is advisable to include flowers in the decoration, such as tulips and peach blossoms.
  5. This year will be favorable for real estate, agriculture, industry, engineering, pharmacy, and mechanics.

The Chinese New Year's origin and history

Chinese customs and traditions for celebrating New Year

The Chinese New Year celebration lasts fifteen days, three of which are considered official or public holidays by the Chinese government, and the color red is the protagonist, representing success and good fortune.

Families of several generations gather to worship, first of all, their ancestors before dinner, with offerings and prayers before altars or in temples.

These are some of the elements present in the festivities to commemorate the new year:

Decoration:

  • Spring Festival couplets called Chun Lian are written, using characters related to abundance, happiness, prosperity that will accompany the family in the new year.
  • On the doors of the houses are placed figures called Guardians of the Doors, to scare away an evil creature that appears in spring: Nian.
  • It is very popular to place redfish or Yú in homes, for abundance and to defend their inhabitants from the Nian.
  • New Year or spring sayings are placed on door frames, with good omens for the new year.
  • Streets are decorated with red lanterns and benches and official headquarters are decorated with red New Year pictures, symbolizing prosperity.

The Chinese New Year's origin and history

Gifts and presents:

  • It is customary to give a red envelope (hóng bāoen Mandarin or Lai See in Cantonese) with a small amount of money to children, young and old, as a wish for good luck.
  • Gifts usually given are tea sets, liquor, tobacco and fruits (friends), clothes and accessories (older people), candies, clothes, dolls, red envelopes, and books (children).

Typical dishes:

  • At the Reunion Dinner or New Year’s Eve dinner, typical dishes for the occasion are eaten, such as steamed fish, Chinese ravioli or dumplings (jiaozi), spring rolls (made in the shape of gold ingots), Tangyuan (sweet rice balls), “longevity” noodles and Niángao (rice cake).
  • The good luck fruits consumed to welcome the Chinese New Year are tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit, symbolizing fullness and wealth because of their round shape and similarity to the golden color.

The Chinese New Year's origin and history

Traditional dances and other celebrations:

  • An important element in the celebration of this holiday is the launching of fireworks of great magnitudes, especially in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
  • Typical traditional dances are the Wu Shi or Lion Dance and Wu Long or Dragon Dance, to ward off evil spirits and attract good luck.
  • After the reunion dinner, it is traditional to watch the Spring Festival gala, with traditional Chinese folk songs and live performances, broadcast on television.
  • The Beijing Temple Fair is held.
  • The Lunar New Year ends with the Lantern Festival that takes place in the evening, with parades and displays of brightly decorated lanterns.

The Chinese New Year's origin and history

How is the New Year celebrated in other parts of the world?

The celebration of Chinese New Year is spread over several weeks in China and the rest of the Asian countries. We mention some of them:

  • In Vietnam, the celebrations start with a feast: Tết Nguyên Đán.
  • In South Korea, the festivities last only three days.
  • In Tibet the Tibetan New Year is celebrated similarly to the Chinese New Year, lasting fifteen days, also known as the Losar Festival.
  • In Singapore, the Chingay Parade is held, with a procession and colorful floats.

Interesting facts about Chinese New Year

  1. According to popular belief, people whose year of birth coincides with the current Chinese zodiac year will have bad luck. It is advisable to wear a red ribbon during the year.
  2. A very common tradition is to eat Chinese dumplings, mentioning the good luck saying Zhāo cái jìn bǎo, which means “bringing wealth and treasure”. The more dumplings you eat, the more money you can get in the new year.
  3. In China, there is a superstition that the beginning of the new year will affect the rest of the year. Therefore, it is important to fully follow all the traditions and customs to celebrate the Chinese New Year, warding off evil and attracting good luck.
  4. The traditional Chinese New Year greeting is kung hei fat choi (in Cantonese) and gongxi facai (in Mandarin), which means “greetings, get rich”.
  5. In China, January 1st is called the “first dawn”, while the Chinese New Year represents the “beginning of spring”.
  6. Chinese New Year is the ideal time for family reunion, representing the world’s largest annual migration, estimated at some 200 million people.
  7. Setting off fireworks and firecrackers during the festivities is an important cultural symbol to ward off evil spirits and bad luck.
  8. One of the preliminary preparations for the Chinese New Year is the Laba Festival, celebrated in January. It is also customary to carry out a thorough cleaning of homes beforehand, except for the first two days of the New Year, so as not to scare away good luck.

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