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Chinese New Year
the meaning of Chinese New Year, how it's celebrated, and what it means to be born in the year .
1. Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is an important traditional Chinese holiday celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. In China, it is also known as the Spring Festival, the literal translation of the modern Chinese name. Chinese New Year celebrations traditionally run from Chinese New Years Eve, the last day of the last month of the Chinese calendar, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month, making the festival the longest in the Chinese calendar. Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the Lunar New Year.
The source of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Traditionally, the festival was a time to honor deities as well as ancestors.Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, including Mainland China, Hong Kong,Macau, Taiwan, Singapore,Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius,Philippines, and also in Chinatowns elsewhere. Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the lunar new year celebrations of its geographic neighbours.
According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with a mythical beast called the Nian. Nian would come on the first day of New Year to eat livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldnt attack any more people. One day a villager decided to get revenge of the Nian. A god visited him and told him to put red paper on his house and to place firecrackers. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. When the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, Nian never came to the village again. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk. The Nian became Hongjun Laozus mount.
3. First day
The first day is for the welcoming of the deities of the heavens and earth, officially beginning at midnight. It is a traditional practice to light fireworks, burn bamboo sticks and firecrackers and to make as much of a din as possible to chase off the evil spirits as encapsulated by nian of which the term guo nian was derived. Many people, especially Buddhists, abstain from meat consumption on the first day because it is believed that this will ensure longevity for them. Some consider lighting fires and using knives to be bad luck on New Years Day, so all food to be consumed is cooked the days before. On this day, it is considered bad luck to use the broom.
Most importantly, the first day of Chinese New Year is a time to honor ones elders and families visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended families, usually their parents, grandparents and great grandparents.
For Buddhists, the first day is also the birthday of Maitreya Bodhisattva (better known as the more familiar Budai Luohan), the Buddha to be. People also abstain from killing animals.
Some families may invite a lion dance troupe as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Chinese New Year as well as to evict bad spirits from the premises. Members of the family who are married also give red envelopes containing cash known as lai see or angpow, a form of blessings and to suppress the aging and challenges associated with the coming year, to junior members of the family, mostly children and teenagers. Business managers also give bonuses through red packets to employees for good luck, smooth sailing, good health and wealth.
While fireworks and firecrackers are traditionally very popular, some regions have banned them due to concerns over fire hazards. For this reason, various city governments (e.g., Hong Kong, Beijing, for a number of years) issued bans over fireworks and firecrackers in certain precincts of the city. As a substitute, large scale fireworks display have been launched by governments in such cities as Hong Kong and Singapore.
4. Second day
The second day of the Chinese New Year, known as beginning of the year was when married daughters visited their birth parents, relatives and close friends. (Traditionally, married daughters didnt have the opportunity to visit their birth families frequently.)During the days of imperial China, beggars and other unemployed people circulate[d] from family to family, carrying a picture [of the God of Wealth] shouting, Cai Shen dao! [The God of Wealth has come!].Householders would respond with lucky money to reward the messengers. Business people of the Cantonese dialect group will hold a Hoi Nin prayer to start their business on the 2nd day of Chinese New Year so they will be blessed with good luck and prosperity in their business for the year.As this day is believed to be The Birthday of Che Kung, a deity worshipped in Hong Kong, worshippers go to Che Kung Temples to pray for his blessing. A representative from the government asks Che Kung about the citys fortune through kau cim.Some believe that the second day is also the birthday of all dogs and remember them with special treats.
5. Third day
The third day is known as red mouth. Chikou is also called Chigous Day Rural villagers continue the tradition of burning paper offerings over trash fires. It is considered an unlucky day to have guests or go visiting.Hakka villagers in rural Hong Kong in the 1960s called it the Day of the Poor Devil and believed everyone should stay at home.This is also considered a propitious day to visit the temple of the God of Wealth and have ones future told.
6. Fourth day
In those communities that celebrate Chinese New Year for only two or three days, the fourth day is when corporate spring dinners kick off and business returns to normal.
7. Fifth day
This day is the god of Wealths birthday. In northern China, people eat jiaozi, or dumplings, on the morning of powu.In Taiwan, businesses traditionally re open on the next day (the sixth day), accompanied by firecrackers.It is also common in China that on the 5th day people will shoot off firecrackers to get Guan Yus attention, thus ensuring his favor and good fortune for the new year.
8. Seventh day
The seventh day, traditionally known as Renri (the common persons birthday), is the day when everyone grows one year older. In some overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Singapore, it is also the day when tossed raw fish salad, yusheng, is eaten for continued wealth and prosperity.For many Chinese Buddhists, this is another day to avoid meat, the seventh day commemorating the birth of Sakra, lord of the devas in Buddhist cosmology who is analogous to the Jade Emperor.
9. Eighth day
Another family dinner is held to celebrate the eve of the birth of the Jade Emperor, the ruler of heaven. People normally return to work by the eighth day, therefore the Store owners will host a lunch/dinner with their employees, thanking their employees for the work they have done for the whole year.Approaching 12 midnight on this day, Hokkien people prepare for the Jade Emperor ritual during which incense is burnt and food offerings made to the Jade Emperor and also to Zao Jun, the Kitchen god who reports on each family to the Jade Emperor.Some people will hold a ritual prayer after midnight on the eighth day. In Malaysia, especially, people light fireworks, often more than on the first day.This practice of Bai Ti Gong can also be seen in Singapore.
10. Ninth day
The ninth day of the New Year is a day for Chinese to offer prayers to the Jade Emperor of Heaven in the Daoist Pantheon.The ninth day is traditionally the birthday of the Jade Emperor. This day, called Ti Kong Dan, Ti Kong Si or Pai Ti Kong , is especially important to Hokkiens, even more important than the first day of the Chinese New Year.Come midnight of the eighth day of the new year, Hokkiens will offer thanks to the Emperor of Heaven. A prominent requisite offering is sugarcane.Legend holds that the Hokkien were spared from a massacre by Japanese pirates by hiding in a sugarcane plantation during the eighth and ninth days of the Chinese New Year, coinciding with the Jade Emperors birthday.Since sugarcaneis a near homonym to thank you in the Hokkien dialect, Hokkiens offer sugarcane on the eve of his birthday, symbolic of their gratitude.In the morning of this birthday, Taiwanese households set up an altar table with 3 layers one top (containing offertories of six vegetables , noodles, fruits, cakes, tangyuan, vegetable bowls, and unripe betel, all decorated with paper lanterns) and two lower levels (containing the five sacrifices and wines) to honor the deities below the Jade Emperor.The household then kneels three times and kowtows nine times to pay obeisance and wish him a long life.Incense, tea, fruit, vegetarian food or roast pig, and gold paper is served as a customary protocol for paying respect to an honored person.
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