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When is Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year begins with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and brought to an end on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is concluded with the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with children exhibiting lanterns in the festivities.

The Chinese calendar is based on lunar and solar movements. The lunar sequence is about 29.5 days. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar the Chinese include an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-year sequence). This is equivalent to adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, in relation to the solar calendar, Chinese New Year falls on a different day each year.

This upcoming year 2004, the New Year 4702 will fall on Thursday, January 22 and represent the Wood Monkey on the Chinese Zodiac.


Celebrating Chinese New Year

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day is a family event, when members unite and wish each other happiness and respect ancestors. The celebration was traditionally emphasized with a ceremony given in reverence of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household, and family ancestors.

The sacrifice to the ancestors, the most important of all the ceremonies, united the living members with those who had passed away. Departed relatives are commemorated with utmost respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family.

House Cleaning:
The entire house should be cleaned before New Year's Day. On New Year's Eve, all cleaning equipment are put away. Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year's Day for fear that good fortune will be swept away. In sweeping, there is a superstition that if you sweep the dirt out through the front entrance, you will sweep away the family's good fortune; it should be swept to the center of the house and then carried out the back door to produce no harm.

Personal Appearance:
Appearance and outlook during New Year's sets the mood for the rest of the year. On New Year's Day, a person is not suppose to wash their hair because it would wash away good luck for the New Year. Red clothing is favored because it is regarded as a vibrant, happy color, assured to bring the person an optimistic future. Children and unmarried friends, as well as close relatives are given hong bao, little red envelopes with crisp dollar bills enclosed, for good luck.

Other Activities:
All debts had to paid by this time. Nothing should be lent on this day, as anyone who does so will be lending all the year.

Everyone should refrain from using foul language and bad or unlucky words. Negative terms and the word "four" (Ssu), which sounds like the word for death, are not to be spoken. Death and dying are never mentioned and ghost stories should not be told. References to the past year are also avoided as everything should be turned toward the New Year and a new beginning. If you cry on New Year's day, you will cry all through the year. Therefore, children are tolerated and are not spanked, even though they are mischievous.

Oranges and Tangerines:
Etiquette suggests that you must bring a bag of oranges and tangerines and include a lai see when visiting family or friends during the 15-day Chinese New Year celebration. Tangerines with leaves intact ensures that a person's relationship with another remains secure. For newlyweds, this represents the diverging of the couple into a family with many children. Oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness.

When the lion eats an orange during a lion dance performance, the skin represents gold and when it is spit out, it symbolizes spreading of wealth and fortune.

Candy Gifts:
A candy tray arranged in either a circle or octagon is called "The Tray of Unity" and has an alluring variety of candy, which each piece represents some sort of good fortune. After taking several pieces of candy from the tray, adults place a red envelope (lai see) in the center compartment of the tray. Here is a list of some candy and what they represent:

Candied melon - growth and good health
Red melon seed - dyed red to symbolize joy,happiness, truth and sincerity
Lychee nut - strong family relationships
Cumquat - prosperity (gold)
Coconut - unity
Peanuts - longevity
Longnan - many good sons
Lotus seed - many children

Chinese New Year Foods:

More food is probably consumed during the New Year celebrations than any other time of the year. Large amounts of traditional food is prepared for family and friends, as well as those close to us who have passed away.

On New Year's Day, the Chinese family will eat a vegetarian dish. Although the various ingredients in these dishes are root vegetables or fibrous vegetables, many people associate various superstitious aspects to them:

Lotus seed - many male offspring
Ginkgo nut - represents silver ingots
Black moss seaweed - is a homonym for exceeding in wealth
Dried bean curd - another homonym for fulfillment of wealth and happiness
Bamboo shoots - wishing that everything would be well
Bean curd or tofu - not included since the white color signifies death and misfortune.

Other foods consist of a whole fish, to represent unity and abundance, and a chicken for prosperity. The head must be included with the chicken as well as the tail and feet to symbolize wholeness. Noodles should be uncut, as they represent long life.

If you would like more learning resources, activities, and craft ideas that relate to Chinese New Year, Kids Domain has a good listing of links.


* Information for this page was taken from http://www.educ.uvic.ca/faculty/mroth/438/CHINA/chinese_new_year.html



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