Chun Jie, Chinese Lunar New Year

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An auspicious Dragon at a Chinese New Year's Festival; photo by Deerphoto

Chun Jie ("Spring Festival"), also known as the Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year is the first day of the first month of the Asian lunisolar calendar year. It is one of the most popular holidays in the world, beginning on the New Moon and lasting for two weeks, when it concludes with the arrival of the Lantern Festival at the next Full Moon. A common holiday greeting to bring luck for the New Year is "Gong Hei Fat Choy" (literally "Wish Happiness, Develop Fortune" -- which carries the meaning of "Wishing You Happiness and Prosperity for the New Year") With each Lunar New year, a new animal of the Chinese Zodiac is celebrated: the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Sheep (sometimes referred to as the Ram or Goat), the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog, and the Boar (also known as the Pig).

The holiday is believed to inaugurate good fortune, and so there are many decorations used, in homes, businesses, and public spaces, to announce and welcome the new year. The Spring Festival also marks the largest annual human migration in the world, as Chinese migrant labourers and Chinese people living overseas return to their homes to celebrate the New Year together. They may visit temples to pray and burn joss stick incense, light firecrackers, partake of entertainments, or participate in street parades with Dragon dancers, Lion dancers, and costumed marchers who represent characters from classic Chinese literature and folk tales.

During the two weeks of the Spring Festival, these traditional rules may be followed:

Gifts and decorations for the Chinese New Year: red and gold brocade pouches for gifts, oranges to represent prosperity, firecrackers to drive away the demon Nian, and an abacus to set the stage for wealth in business accounting for the year; photo by Cowardlion
Cleaning: All cleaning is to be done before the New Year at the New Moon, and no cleaning should take place until after the Lantern Festival at the Full Moon.
Lucky Foods: In some regions it is customary to eat two fish served side by side, in keeping with the saying "Nian Nian You Yu" ("More Than Enough Remains") because "nian" ("fish") is a homonym for "nian" ("remain"), so you will have enough food for the year and extra food besides. Emblems of two matching koi fish may symbolize this saying. Long noodles are also eaten, for long life, and Mandarin oranges, for wealth and luck.
Loud Noises: "Nian" also means "year," in the sense of time. "Nian Shou" literally means "time beast" and can represent the Chinese Zodiac as a whole or a demon-beast called "Nian" who is driven away at the turn of the year by setting off firecrackers and banging on pots and pans to scare him into leaving.
Gifts of Money: Gifts ofmoney are given in red envelopes with good wishes printed on them in gilded lettering, often with pictures of two koi fish ("More Than Enough [Money] Remains [After You Spend This Money]"). The money should be in brand new, crisp currency, to symbolize the New Year.
The Year's Zodiac Amimal: Gifts bearing the image of the Chinese Zodiac animal of the year, especially commemorative gold or silver lunar coins, are a popular way to covey good wishes for a fortunate and prosperous year, especially to someone whose Chinese zodiac animal-year it is.
Front Door Decorations: Front door decorations may consist of a red paper upon which "fu dao wo jia" ("Good Luck Has Arrived") is printed in gold. If the previous year was very bad, some people hang the ideograms for "dao fu" ("bad luck") upside-down on the front door, as a form of reversing bad to good for the New Year.
Lucky Colours: For the two weeks of the New Year Festival you ought not to wear clothing that is black (which symbolizes evil) or white (which symbolizes death). Wear red and gold clothing instead, to show joy and wealth.
Hair-Cutting: Do not cut anyone's hair during the Spring Festival because "fa" ("hair") reminds one of "fa cai" ("getting rich"), so cutting hair would cut off the person's riches.
Avoiding Breakage: Avoid breaking glassware or pottery during the festival time because "sui", which means "to break" is a homonym for "sui," which means "years of age." If something breaks, you can say "Sui Sui Ping An" ("Peace Year After Year").


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