Chinese New Year 2013, The Year of The Snake
In 2013, February 10th marks the Chinese New Year, which accounts for the scarlet decorations in Chinatowns across the U.S., as well as massive celebrations in China and other parts of the world. If you’ve ever wondered why the Chinese celebrate New Year on different dates, or the origins of many of their New Year traditions, read on.
New Year, New Moon
Blame different calendars for the discrepancy between the timing Chinese New Year and the January 1st New Year as celebrated in other areas of the world. Unlike the calendar used in many Western countries, the Chinese traditionally use a lunisolar calendar, which takes into account moon phase as well as the position of the earth in its orbit around the sun. For those of us who live according to the Gregorian Calendar, calculated by the Earth’s movements around the sun, the beginning of the Chinese New Year takes place on a different date each year.
The Reason for the Red
Turns out that the Chinese got the idea to drape everything in red as a way of scaring off the Nian, a rather fierce mythical creature with a penchant for eating children and generally creating a rumpus. Legend has it that the creature had a few weaknesses, including a distaste for the color red. Since Chinese villagers weren’t keen on having their children or crops eaten, they began using red lanterns and scrolls to keep the creature at bay.
In many cultures, a ritual housecleaning is part of every New Year’s celebration, and the Chinese are no exception. Prior to the first day of Chinese New Year, celebrants give their homes a good cleaning, in part to get rid of any accumulated bad luck from the previous year. Individuals and families may also do a bit of household and personal redecorating at this time: Homes may get a new coat of paint and people might get new haircuts or some new clothes to mark the turning of the year.
The Chinese make the U.S. tradition of celebrating New Year over just two days seem puny and pathetic. Prior to Chinese New Year, celebrants begin their preparations, which include eating a special rice porridge and cleaning their homes. The Chinese then celebrate New Year’s eve with a special dinner and fireworks at midnight. The celebrations continue with visits to relatives, giving gifts of cash (stuffed in red envelopes) and eating special foods over a period of 15 days.
Communities traditionally celebrate Chinese New Year with midnight fireworks. Unfortunately, this poses a public safety hazard and some governments have banned their use, though it should be noted that local government authorities, at least in some countries, are disinclined to enforce bans during New Year celebrations.
Tags: Chinese New Year