Celebrations around the world are already under way for the Chinese New Year, which begins on Thursday 19th February and lasts until 5th March.
Often marked by fireworks and family feasts within China, it’s also known as the Spring Festival. Chinese New Year is widely regarded as the most important celebration in China and is given official public holiday status, during which most Chinese get eight days off work. Here are some of the most famous traditions.
“Cleaning your house”
This tradition is done with the belief that cleaning your house will “sweep away the bad luck” that has gathered in your house over the previous year. It is also thought that decluttering and cleaning will make room for new luck to enter your household.
“The hanging of Fu”
Much like a Christmas wreath, hanging this Chinese symbol on your front door is a must throughout the New Year celebrations. The symbol normally means “blessing” or “happiness” but oddly it must be hung upside down. When it is hung upside down it’s meaning is changed to mean “arrival”. This is done so that the symbol takes on a double meaning, both welcoming people into your home and wishing them happiness.
“Red and Gold colouring”
Red and gold are the two colours that are synonymous with Chinese New Year. Red in Chinese customs, symbolizes joy and good fortune while gold symbolizes money or wealth. Everyone dresses in red coloured items for the day and parents hand out red envelopes filled with money to their children. This is called “Hong Kao”.
“New Years Eve dinner”
New year’s Eve dinner is probably the most important meal throughout the Chinese year. It is normally a reunion dinner for families who live or work very far from home. Two of the most common dishes served during the dinner are fish and dumplings. This is because both of these dishes signify prosperity. People then often stay up for long periods of the night to watch the fireworks, and to warn off the fearsome “Nian”.
Fireworks are one of the main features of Chinese New Year celebrations. The fireworks come from an ancient tradition whereby loud explosions and the colourful flares of gunpowder were thought to warn off evil spirits. An ancient evil spirit called the “Nian” was believed to come and haunt children around the time that New Years is celebrated. The loud explosions were thought to frighten “Nian”. The beast was also said to be terrified of the colour red.
While you may think that China is a million miles away, you can get involved in the celebrations right here in Dublin. Dublin City Council have put together a useful website http://cny.ie/, giving you dates and times for all the events and celebrations that will take place. You and your family can immerse yourself in Chinese culture by learning about the country’s food, history and traditions.
By Daniel Pim