As it is evident, the lunar New Year is based on moon cycles and therefore its dates are not fixed. Usually, it commences in the last week of January or in the month of February according to the solar calendar, as the Chinese calendar is the combination of solar and lunar cycles.
Lunar New Year is celebrated in many parts of Asia such as China, Korea and Vietnam. It is also celebrated in the US and other countries by the Asian communities. Similar to the solar calendar, lunar year is also divided into 12 months and the first day of the first month is called lunar New Year.
The lunar New Year has been observed as an auspicious holiday for the past five thousand years in China. The Chinese calendar actually began in 2700BC, during the reign of Emperor Huang Ti. Later on, in the 2300BC, Emperor Yao instructed his astronomers to invent a calendar that can help farmers determine the exact time of different seasons and the right time to harvest.
Chinese observe the lunar New Year with great fanfare and rendezvous with friends. The preparations start from the last dates of the previous lunar month. They pay all their debts, get their hair cut and buy new clothes. To ward off misfortune and invite good luck, they clean their homes. The cleanliness drive is thorough and massive. But, on New Year’s Day, the cleaning is completely prohibited, as it’s considered to be inauspicious on that day. Rubbish and dirt is collected in the room till the next five days and then it’s cleared through the backdoor.
Paper cutouts of traditional themes of happiness and wealth are used to dress and adorn the windows and doors. Incense is used in houses and places of worship as a mark of respect for ancestors and as a good omen for health in the New Year.
New Year’s Eve
A special get together is arranged on the New Year’s Eve, where popular local dishes are served. Family members play cards and other games or simply watch the New Year programs on TV. At midnight, the celebration begins with dazzling fireworks. Fireworks and lights are considered to be a powerful act to ward off the evil spirits.
New Year Day
In the morning, when the sun of the New Year dawns, youngsters and children greet their parents and elders and in turn are awarded with “lay see”, the money kept in red envelopes and thought to be lucky. Then the family members go outside the house and wish their neighbors and friends knocking every door in the neighborhood. This is an auspicious and festive occasion, where people do away with their differences, reconcile as a goodwill gesture, and exchange gifts for many days to come. All around, there is an atmosphere of peace, festivity, celebration, social get-togethers, folk dance and fun. The celebration continues till the next fortnight. It’s also known as Spring festival and after this festive season ends another festival called the Lantern Festival starts.
The festival food is amazing and there are up to nine dishes on the dining table during this festival. Number four and any number which is less than six is avoided, when it comes to number of dishes. The favorite food includes fish, whole chicken, dumplings, jiao zi, Jai, and fried vegetables.
According to a legend, Nian monster, the evil power that swept away all crops, livestock and villagers in Ancient China can be thwarted with bright red clothes. Red is considered to be a color that protects and brings good luck in the New Year. White is considered to be a symbol of sorrow and misfortune and hence it’s avoided completely.