Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, starts at the beginning of spring. It occurs somewhere between the end of January and the middle of February. Chinese New Year is China’s biggest holiday.
Its origin is ancient, but many believe the word Nian, which means year, was the name of a beast that preyed on people on the eve of a new year. An old man subdued him and told the villagers to put up red paper decorations on their windows and doors at each year’s end in order to keep Nian away. The custom of putting up red paper and lighting firecrackers to scare away Nian continues today.
As part of the Chinese New Year celebration, people buy presents, decorations, special foods and new clothing. Days before the New Year celebration, Chinese families are busy giving their home a thorough cleaning to sweep away bad luck and make the house ready for good luck to enter.
The New Year’s Eve supper is a feast with all the members of the family getting together. Lights in the house are kept on during the whole night. There are fireworks at midnight. The next morning, children get lucky red enveloped full of gifts. There are many ancient superstitions still practiced on New Year’s Day in China. Some don’t eat meat, others don’t wash their hair and children are not punished on New Year’s Day!
Chinese New Year is a time for reconciliation. Old grudges are forgiven. An important part of the New Year celebration is to honor and respect relatives and ancestors who have died. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving.
Chinese New Year customs vary from place to place in China because China is a big country geographically, demographically and ethnically. But the spirit underlying the diverse celebrations of the New Year is a sincere wish of peace and happiness for family members and friends.