Starting from January 28, it’s the time of the year to enjoy lion dances and exchange red envelopes for ’tis the Chinese New Year! Countries across the world with significant cultural influences from China have already been lit up to mark the festival with great enthusiasm and energy. To be a part of these celebrations here is all you need to know about the history and traditions of the Chinese New Year.
When is it celebrated?
Celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar, the date of this festival changes every year. It is marked by the new moon falling between January 21 and February 20 of the Gregorian calendar.
How do the Chinese celebrate it?
The Chinese celebrate this festival with their dear ones- their family and friends. They purchase new clothes and decorate their homes to symbolise new beginnings. Red envelopes with money are gifted by the older to the younger, and also from bosses to employees. The celebrations of the New Year continue for 16 days.
The legends behind the festival
According to legend, in the ancient times, a monster named Nian used to eat people and livestock from nearby villages on every New Year’s Eve. To escape from him, people used to flee to remote mountains until an old man visited the village and scared away the monster by pasting red papers on doors, burning bamboo to make a loud cracking sound (precursor to firecrackers), lighting candles in the houses, and wearing red clothes. Since then, the Chinese people have been marking the occasion with all these traditions.
Significance of red envelopes
A red envelope is also called Yasui Qian (“suppressing Sui money”). According to legend, on New Year’s Eve, a demon named Sui used to terrify children while they were asleep. It was said that the demon’s touch used to make children ill and weak.
Thus, to protect their children, a parent in the village gave his kid eight coins to play with in order to keep him awake. The child wrapped the coins in red paper, opened the packet, rewrapped it, and reopened it until he was too tired to fall asleep. Then the parents placed the packet with eight coins under his pillow. When Sui tried to touch his head, the eight coins emitted a strong light and scared the demon away. Since then, the tradition continues as a blessing from the elders to the young.
Where is it celebrated?
The festival is majorly celebrated in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Cambodia, Mauritius, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.