The moment you step into a city center, you are warmly greeted by the clamor of a bustling crowd and the smell of dumplings. Traditional red lanterns hang over the busy streets as you make your way to the pop-up market. These sights and smells are indicative of the holiday that’s celebrated by thousands: the Chinese New Year.
The roots of this ancient holiday are embedded in the tale of the monster Nian (the Chinese word for year), who appears at the end of each lunar year. Legend has it that Nian emerges to do harm to the people, animals and land. According to the myth, the monster can only be defeated with the three things he hates most: loud noises, bright lights, and the color red. So every year the townspeople join together and fend it off as they bang on drums, light sparklers, and cover the city in red.
The Chinese New Year is a 15-day long festival that corresponds with the lunar calendar. This year, New Year’s Day falls on February 8th, kicking off the year of the Monkey.
Like an American New Years, the celebration begins the night before. It is customary for extended families to sit down to a meal referred to as the “reunion dinner.” A traditional reunion dinner would not be complete without fish and dumplings – two of the most common Spring Festival foods. Once everyone is stuffed from their feast, the middle generation often gives red envelopes filled with money to the older and younger generations as a gift. Afterwards, families will enjoy “Shou Sui” which translates to “after the New Year’s Eve dinner.” Together, they enjoy each other’s company while staying up late into the night and watching the fireworks.
The two-week long celebration concludes with a lantern festival. Friends and family gather to brighten up their towns and cities with glowing lanterns. One of the most widely attended lantern festivals takes place in Pingxi, Taiwan, where thousands of floating lanterns are released into the sky.
Even though January 1st has passed, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to kick off 2016 with a bang! So if you want a second round of New Year’s celebrations, get your family together for fish and dumplings, bust out the sparklers, and have a happy Chinese New Year!
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