The Chinese New Year is celebrated in China and in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, including Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Philippines and Chinatowns everywhere.
It’s the most important Chinese holiday and also the longest, lasting 15 days. It’s often referred to as the Spring Festival and Lunar New Year, with the next one falling on January 31, 2014.
Chinese months are calculated by the lunar calendar, with each new month starting on the darkest day. New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. In China, people may take weeks off from work to prepare for and celebrate the New Year.
The evening before Chinese New Year’s Day is an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual reunion dinner. People will buy presents, decorations, food and clothing. It is also traditional for each family to thoroughly clean their house with the idea that it will sweep out any bad luck and make way for good fortune. Windows and doors are decorated with red paper-cuts and couplets.
The feast on New Year’s Eve often includes such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet treats. The family ends the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year and will receive money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.
The holiday ends on the fifteenth day with a lantern festival. People hang glowing lanterns—painted with birds, animals, flowers, zodiac signs, and scenes from legend and history—in temples, and carry them in an evening parade under the light of the full moon. Often, there is a dragon dance, with an ornamental dragon that may stretch a hundred feet – usually made of silk, paper, and bamboo.
Chinese New Year is the world’s largest human migration as Chinese workers travel home to their families.
About the Year of the Snake
So what’s in store for you this year? According to the Chinese Zodiac, the year of the “Black Snake” is meant for steady progress and attention to detail. Focus and discipline will be necessary for you to achieve what you set out to create. The snake is the sixth sign of the Chinese Zodiac, which consists of 12 animal signs (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig). The snake is the enigmatic, intuitive, introspective, refined and collected of the animal signs. Ancient Chinese wisdom says a snake in the house is a good omen because it means that your family will not starve.