The Year of the Monkey has begun. The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is a celebration that takes place from the evening of the first day (8th of February) to the Lantern Festival (22nd of February) on the fifteenth day. Each day, a different custom takes place up until the Lantern Festival. These customs are important to Chinese culture.
The first day serves as a welcoming for deities of the heavens and earth and typically occurs at midnight. It is tradition to burn bamboo sticks, light fireworks, and make as much noise as possible to chase away the evil spirits. A symbolic ritual is also the performing of the lion dance to rid of the evil spirits and to ensure good fortune, the exchanging of red envelopes filled with money. Sweets and fruits are also exchanged amongst friends and family in units of eight. Eight is considered a lucky number to bring good luck, wealth, and fortune. The most important factor of the first day of Chinese New Year is the honoring of the elders in the family.
The second day is known as the “beginning of the year”. On this day, married daughters visit their birth parents and close family and friends; traditionally, married daughters would not have the opportunity to see their birth family as frequently. This day is also when people honor the deity Tsai Shen, the God of Wealth. Since this day is also known as the “Birthday of Dogs,” owned and stray dogs are fed well.
The third day is believed to be the day the spirits of the dead roam the earth so it is bad luck to be outdoors. People are encouraged to stay indoors and honor the deceased. The fourth day is a continuation of the third day.
The fifth day marks as the birthday of the God of Wealth and respect is paid to the God. It is considered not to leave the house for too long in case the God of Wealth was to visit the family home. The sixth day marks as a day to visit temples and relatives.
The seventh day is known as the “Birthday of Men,” or Human Day. This day celebrates common, ordinary men who “grow” a year older and are served certain foods according to the origin of man; each dish as a symbolic meaning that enhances health. On the eighth day, the Fujian people have reunion dinners and at midnight, pray to the Jade Emperor.
The ninth day is known as the “Birthday of the Jade Emperor”. The Jade Emperor is identified as the God of Heaven, Ruler of all Heavens (the Chinese have thirty), God of Earth, God of the Underworld/Hell, Creator of the Universe, and the Lord of the Imperial Court.
The tenth to twelfth day is a day of more feasting with family and friends and the thirteenth day is a day of dieting from feasting and cleansing the body with vegetarian meals. On the fourteenth day, preparations are made for the Lantern Festival.
The fifteenth day, the last day, is the day of the Lantern Festival. It marks the full moon after the Spring Festival and of the New Year. A last reunion dinner is held and lanterns are displayed all throughout. The significance of this festival is to guide the lost and evil spirits home all while celebrating the closeness of positive relationships amongst friends and family.
Chinese New Year is a beautiful, cultural, and historic holiday to the people of China. It brings families and friends together, and traditions keep the meaning of the customs alive.