May 15, 2008

Chinese New Year


For the Chinese people, Chinese New Year is the most important festival of the year. It is the first day of the full moon, it means the renewal of life, the new beginning, new hope, new prospects.

The traditional way of welcoming the New Year, is to spend New Year's Eve with the whole family having a meal together, then the whole family would go out to a special market (called flower market) and walk around there till early morning. Nowadays, urban dwellers will usually stay on through the night to catch up on each others latest news since most of the Chinese relatives are more or less dispersed widely due to occupation needs. Such gatherings are good for catching up.

In the past, the children will stay up late till the early morning; banging away with their fire crackers, signifying the meaning of wishing their parents longevity.

In the morning the children have to give their parents good wishes, and in return their parents will give them lucky money placed inside a red packet.

The start of the Chinese New Year usually takes place sometime in February.

There are a number of different beliefs as to how the lunar new year started, but one of the more colourful Chinese legends involves a beast with an enormous mouth that could swallow people whole.

This beast, named Nian, terrified people until an old man (an immortal god in disguise) tamed it, riding Nian into the sunset. Before the old man left, he suggested that people hang red paper decorations on their windows and doors at each year's end. The color red was the color the beast feared most - and thus it would scare Nian, if the beast came back. Of course, this is only a legend and like most others is based on superstition.

And so the tradition of Guo Nian started. Guo, which means "to pass" or "to observe," and Nian, which means "year," was once used to mean "survive the [beast] Nian" but is now used to "celebrate the [New] Year."

In particular, the Chinese believe New Year festivities, is a time for renewal, family reunion, eating rich foods and paying respects to parents and elders. In addition, the Chinese believe that what you do and how you act during this period will determine what kind of year you have.

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