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8 things that make the Chinese New year unique
The Chinese New Year celebrations include the most colorful and exciting celebrations that can be experienced in this country.
But why do the Chinese only celebrate a few weeks after our New Year's Eve? The traditional Chinese calendar has both a solar and a lunar year. A lunar year has 12 lunar months that always begin with the new moon. The Chinese New Year begins with the second new moon after the winter solstice - this year it is January 28th. The festival traditionally lasts 15 days. The preparations start a long time beforehand. We have put together the eight things for you that make the festival so fascinating:
1. The lucky rituals
To be especially lucky in the New Year, there are many rituals that you can celebrate for the Chinese New Year.
- Open all windows and doors to let in happiness.
- Clean your apartment and polish your dishes. This is how you create space for new happiness in your apartment.
- Leave the lights on at night. This is how happiness finds its way to your house and evil spirits are deterred.
- Nobody goes to bed early on the night of the New Year - because those who don't sleep that night have a long life. This tradition is called "shou sui" (守岁).
- Don't buy new shoes during the New Year's! That brings misfortune. After all, the word shoe (鞋子, xiezi) sounds almost the same as the word for bad, angry and unhealthy (邪, xie).
- You shouldn't have your hair cut either. The word hair (髮 / 发, fà) is very similar to the word happiness (發 / 发, fā). And you wouldn't cut your luck away either!
2. The delicious food
Versatile, tasty and, above all, plentiful: the food for Chinese New Year is simply amazing. There is also nothing: many dishes have a traditional meaning.
The kitchen god Zao Jun (灶君) is the most important of the household gods. Seven days before the New Year begins, he visits the Jade Emperor to tell him about everything that has happened under the family roof. So that he only reports good things - or to cover his mouth with them - Zao Jun is offered sweet food in China.
Because the Chinese word for “fish” (鱼) sounds exactly like the Chinese word for “abundance” or prosperity (余) (yu), it is never completely eaten. Noodles stand for a long life, tangerines and oranges are symbols for happiness and abundance. In northern China, jiaozi (饺子, dumplings with vegetables and meat or shrimp) are very popular, and you should eat an even number. In rural areas, people first offer a bowl of jiaozi to the gods on an altar. Next, the cattle get their portion, and only then is there jiaozi for the family.
3. The impressive colors
In China, red is the most popular color. It symbolizes happiness, joy and everything positive. Everything is red at Chinese New Year! Every street, every house is decorated in the days leading up to the festival - with red lanterns, garlands and flowers.
Everyone wears new, red clothes bought in the old year. On the doors hang Duilian (对联), poems immortalized on red paper. The Hongbao (红包) are particularly popular: red envelopes full of money that are given away to children and unmarried people.
Combine red and gold to achieve wealth and progress. If you want to do everything right at the Chinese New Year, avoid the misfortune color black and the funeral color white!
4. The fantastic lion and dragon dances
The dragon and lion dances take place at parades and street parties. They have been around for thousands of years and you just can't get enough of them.
The lucky lion Ruishi (瑞士) is usually danced by two people to drum music. The sequences are quite complicated and are taught in lion dance schools. A kite is around 25 to 30 meters long. The longer a dragon dance lasts, the more luck it brings to the audience.
5. The fascinating mythology
According to Chinese mythology, the monster Nianshou (年 兽) lives in the sea or in the mountains. After its hibernation, around the time of the Chinese New Year, it comes out of its hiding place to eat people - and especially children. However, the beast is afraid of the color red and loud noises. That is why people light fireworks and firecrackers with the traditional “guonian” (过年, expulsion of the annual monster) and decorate everything in shades of red.
In the Chinese calendar, the years are not numbered consecutively. Instead, every new year is marked by a different animal. These animals are rat, buffalo, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig - and after twelve years it starts all over again. In addition, each animal is assigned an element from the five-element theory of wood, fire, earth, metal or water. The year of the Fire Rooster begins on January 28, 2017.
6. The colored lights
Large cities are usually bathed in a sea of fairy lights and lanterns for the Chinese New Year celebrations. In addition, it is very loud everywhere at this time - after all, the monster Nianshou must be driven away. That is why there are huge fireworks every year. In the streets, people often bang firecrackers. But this is not allowed everywhere in China.
The Lantern Festival heralds the end of the New Year celebrations. On the 15th day, mostly red lanterns are released into the night sky. Sometimes they look like animals or mythical creatures and have painted scenes from old stories or poems. Often the representations also contain puzzles. This is particularly popular with the children, who receive gifts if they guess correctly.
7. The lavish family celebrations
The contemplative get-together with the family has top priority at the Chinese New Year celebrations. Therefore, in the days and weeks before, there was a mighty jolt through the country: the world's largest annual migratory movement begins. Millions of Chinese accept overcrowded trains, planes and roads as well as horrific travel expenses in order to get back to their hometowns on time.
The last day of the year is spent with the family over a sumptuous meal. You play afterwards and stay up together as long as possible. On New Year's Day it is customary to greet parents with a New Year's blessing and a compliment.
Married couples usually visit the man's family first. Relaxation and the joy of seeing you again are the top priorities on these days - however, from the third day onwards, “chikou” (赤 口, argument) is more frequent when the distant relatives are also visited.
8. Worldwide distribution
In East Asia, i.e. in China, Korea, Mongolia, Okinawa, Taiwan and Vietnam, the Chinese New Year is most present. But they also celebrate the Chinese New Year everywhere else where many Chinese live. In Asia, for example, also in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Just like within China, traditions differ around the world.
Chinese emigrants overseas who cannot make it home or who no longer have families in China can often enjoy the festivities in western countries as well. In San Francisco, the Chinese New Year celebrations are regularly the largest Asian event in the United States. The focus there is on the parade, which combines balloons, floats, costumes, acrobats, lions, dragons and fireworks to create an intoxicating festival. Other major festivals take place in the Chinatowns in New York, London and Sydney. In Germany, too, it's worth checking the local calendar of events - if you don't make it to China in time.
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