As an aspiring event planner and admirer of learning about different cultures, I chose to research the Chinese New Year. Going into the research behind the Chinese New Year, I knew almost nothing and learned a substantial amount, educating me about the types of celebratory cultures customary to China. Learning about traditions from other cultures provides a larger, more universally well-educated outlook on the world and one’s own familiar culture. In hope to expand my global knowledge, through this research paper, I explore numerous traditions leading up to Chinese New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Eve, day of New Year, and a few other New Year related customs that continue into half of the first month. Unlike most holidays, China blocks out about three whole days to celebrate through decorations, food, festive activities, worship, offerings, gifts, greetings, cleaning, and various others.
To set the background of my paper, I begin by explaining the ancient context behind the development of the Chinese calendar and the meaning behind New Year’s date assignment. The phases of the moon directly correspond to the months in the Chinese calendar, which is the Lunar calendar. The reasoning behind allotting New Year to the day of the new moon phase is symbolic in a sense that both represent fresh, new starts and the end of an era, which is the cause of the celebratory day. It was also believed that the birth of this holiday served to mark the day in very early history when people believed the beast, known as ‘Year’ comes out to cause havoc and harm on all the villagers. In retaliation to the beast, the people discovered a few things kept them safe from ‘Year’, introducing the decoration customs, which have continued to be passed on.
As the Chinese New Year’s Eve approaches, individuals and families from all around the world begin their extensive and joyous traditions as businesses close for the three-day-holiday. Common to the preparation, people go out to buy new clothing, usually red and shoes and cart-fulls of food for the dinners and expansive feasts to come. Festive red decorations are arranged all around the house, and special attention is paid to doors and entrances by roping it off or hanging rope with white paper to insinuate the house is clean.
Cleaning the house on New Year’s Eve, the Dust Sweep, is symbolic to the new comings and clean start of the New Year. It is customary for the holiday to bring all family members together to participate in their individualized New Year beliefs. One of the common themes and focuses for the coming year is for elders to celebrate the memory of past years, recognizing and treasuring their future endeavors to come, as the younger members keep in mind their duty and privilege of continuing their parents’ legacies and general bloodline. The families greet one another in respectful, cheerful notions before the main event, the Reunion Dinner, while some outside friends and loved ones may receive sweet desert or candy.
The Reunion Dinner consists of traditional Chinese foods with candlelight ambiance and finishing it up with an intimate circle gathering, where memories of the past year and topic of the next year are shared and discussed. Celebration of gods and ancestors is also widely significant, where offerings or sacrifices from the family are placed in the house for the intended spirit. By the end of the night, firecrackers are lit, signifying the first day of the New Year has arrived. Usually, drawing back to the significance of the doors, people use the fireworks in the doorways, welcoming the new year in hopes of good fortune and luck.
On the day of New Years, the celebration is confined to the home of the family head with the occasional family that may leave to visit a local temple or shrine. At home, special dishes like cake, dried fruit, and rice are eaten, offerings made, new clothing worn, and special family bonds are strengthened. One of the major events on the agenda for the common Chinese family is for extensive attention to be paid to the worshiping practices for the Gods and ancestors. The first ten days consist of eating symbolic food for specific hopes in the future, letting go of the bad, visiting alternative homes if needed, praying for deities, and regular city life is back to normal, yet a few more customs continue. Continuing family traditions, day eight entails a fast, representing safeguarding longevity, going till the clock strikes midnight, where the ninth day known for birth begins.
While all of these intricate and passionate activities are in action, the widely known tradition, Making New Year Callings is occurring, continuing till the fifteenth of the month. Elders and children are the main participants in these festivities that celebrate wishes of prosperity, health, and happiness. The fifteenth day Lantern Festival marks the end to the three-day-celebration, winding down the holiday’s events with a feast and lighting lanterns in the evening under the first full moon of the year. Ending, yet starting the new year on a merry note with dragon and lion dances, martial arts, and entertainers in the company of friends and family sets up everyone for a hopefully fulfilled year.