Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year, and Spring Festival are all different names used to refer to one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world, which begins on the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends 15 days later, on the first full moon of the lunar calendar. Since this calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, dates vary from year to year. This year Chinese New Year falls on February 1st, 2022. Variations of Lunar New Year are celebrated all over Asia, and so for this article we’re focusing on the biggest of them all, as observed in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and with members of the Chinese diaspora worldwide.
Preparing for the Spring Festival
The days leading up to Chinese New Year are a flurry of activity. In order to begin the new year with a clean state, businesses balance their books, individuals pay their debts, and every household undergoes a thorough cleaning in an effort to literally sweep away bad luck.
There are practical reasons to clean one’s house as well, as the first seven days of the festival period, the Spring Festival, are a national holiday in China, and this is a time where most people pay visits to their friends and relatives and travel back to their hometowns. In fact, so many people are on the move that this annual event has been dubbed “the largest human migration on the planet”! During these visits, hosts put out auspicious foods, people toast and wish each other happy new year, and children and unmarried people are presented with red envelopes containing money.
Traditions and Taboos
In the streets, the celebration takes on a more raucous atmosphere, with parades of traditional dances such as lion or dragon dances to ward off evil spirits. Legend has it that on New Year’s Day, an evil spirit called Nian would come out to eat villagers, so to scare him off people set off firecrackers and fireworks, traditions which continue to this day.
Along with ways to celebrate, a number of superstitions and taboos accompany the celebrations, in order to bring good fortune into the new year. One shouldn’t cry or argue, but only talk about good, happy things to smoothly and harmoniously pass into the next year. People are discouraged from using scissors or needles and from cutting their hair, as doing so is said to cut off your path to wealth and success. While people sweep and clean their houses before the new year, it is taboo to sweep after New Year’s Eve, or else you’ll sweep your luck out the door!
Where To Celebrate
Outside of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, there are plenty of places to enjoy the Chinese New Year. In North America, where most big cities include a Chinatown district, some of the best parades and festivities take place in New York and San Francisco in the United States and Toronto and Vancouver in Canada. Elsewhere in Asia, dazzling celebrations are to be found in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Bangkok in Thailand. Wherever you go, be sure to wear red, the color of good luck and good fortune.
How do you celebrate the new year in your country? Tell us in the comments below!