This is the complete Chinese culture information about Chinese Lunar New Year from Chinese New Year Eve to the last date of Chinese New Year Festival - Chinese Lantern Festival. 2016 Chinese New Year Day is on February 8, 2016. The Year of Sheep begins on February 4, 2016.
Chinese New Year Eve - 30th (or 29th) Lunar day of 12th Lunar Month
Chinese New Year Eve usually is on 30th lunar day of 12th lunar month. However, a lunar month might have only 29 days. In this case, the Chinese New Year Eve becomes on 29th day of 12th lunar month. The next day will be a new moon day, which is the Chinese New Year Day.
In Chinese, Chinese New Year Eve is called Chu-Xi or Guo-Nian . Chu means removal. Xi means night. Guo means passing. Nian means year.
Original meaning of Nian is related to farmer's harvest. Chinese Farmers celebrated their achievement for the past year, appreciated the gracious reward given from the god, and prayed for the same luck for the coming year.
Nobody knows when the legendary story about Nian began. Nian was a ferocious and carnivorous beast. It had lion-type head with elephant-type body. Nian couldn't find the food in the cold winter time, because many animals hibernated in the mountains. It must go down from the mountain to find the livestock. Later, It become a man-eater.
Nian was too strong to kill. Every winter night, people must stay inside the house. Years later, people found Nian was afraid of red, fire and noisy sound. So they cut red-color peach wood hanging on the door, made a campfire in the front of the door. When Nian approached the village, then people put the bamboo into the fire to make cracking sound. They also beat the metal kitchen and farming utensils to make noisy sound to scare Nian away.
People survived, celebrated and said congratulation each other on the next day. People felt like a restarting point after passing the disaster. Then, they called Guo-Nian (passing Nian) as the day before the new starting day.
Events on the Day of Chinese New Year Eve
House cleaning should be ready on or before the day Chinese New Year eve. But Chinese family is still very busy on this day. Early morning, someone has to go to flower-market to buy flowers for worship events and new year day decoration. Red is the auspicious color in China. The pink peach flower and Japanese sakura are very popular choices for the flower arrangement.
The first event on the Chinese New Year Eve is to worship Jade Emperor with flower and fruit without animal sacrifices (top ranking gods are vegetarian) in the early morning to thank the gracious protection from the god of heaven in the past year and pray for safe, smooth and luck for the coming year.
Many families probably are still working in the final house decoration. They need to finish the decoration on doors and windows. Chinese calligraphers write the New Year's poetry on the red color paper and people pasted them on the top and both of sides of main-entry door. They said this custom comes from the story of man-eater Nian animal, which was afraid of red. At the beginning, people drew The God of Door images on the red-color peach tree wood hanging on the door to scare the devil spirit away. Later, Chinese use red color paper instead. There is a even simpler way is to write a single character on the diamond-shape red paper and paste on the doors, windows, containers, posts, storages and money safety boxes. The popular characters are Spring, Luck, Full, Money, Happiness, Wealth, Safety or Prosperity. Some are posted upside down, because the sound of upside-down in Chinese is similar to the word of come. So the upside-down MONEY poster means money comes. The upside-down LUCK poster means the luck comes.
Long time ago, Chinese pasted the New Year paper-cutting arts on the windows. It's hard to find people doing this today, because it's required the experienced skill and lots of patience to create those art works. It's also quite time-consuming to put the arts on the windows.
In the afternoon around 2 or 3 P.M., Chinese need to say good-bye to the current year by telling the gods and ancestors at family Buddhist altar with Nian-Gao (sweet rice cake), Fa-Gao (steamed rice cake), animal sacrifices (pork, duck, chicken or fish), fruit, drink, candy with big red candles. Long time ago, one thing important and special is to put a hundred of coins tied with red thread to hope for good money luck and wish for longevity to 100 year old. Today, people put cash as much as you can instead.
After saying goodbye to gods and ancestors, women begin to prepare the reunion dinner. The main dish sitting on the center of the table is Hot-Pot. The traditional Hot-Pot is a big metal (alumni) bowel and has a hollow tube in the center. Chinese put hot bone soup in the bowel and cook different kind of sliced meat, seafood, vegetable, meat balls and seafood balls during the dinner. They put hot-rock or hot-coal inside the hollow tube to keep food warm. So they can eat the reunion dinner each for hours.
Chinese New Year day usually is close to spring, but it's very often that the weather is still cold. In ancient China, in order to eat the warm food, Chinese had to sit around the cooking stove for New Year Eve dinner. That's why this dinner is also called Wei-Lu , which means "surrounding the stove".
There are many dishes on the dinner table. Every dish has an auspicious meaning behind it. It's connected to longevity, reunion, perfection, good luck, health, diligence, satisfaction or promotion based on the homophone of the dish's name. Family members are supposed to have some from every dish. So they can eat and chat for longer time and share love and care during this time. However, Chinese don't touch fish on the table. This is because the homophone of fish is remainder, which means they have surplus or extra saving in the end of the year. In the other hand, they need leftover for Chinese New Year Day - nobody cooks at home.
After dinner, that's a exciting time for the children. They are waiting for New Year's Hong Bao , which is a Red Envelope containing the brand-new money. Adult or parents will hand out the Red Envelopes to children, unmarried immediate family and their parents before going to the bed. Children will put all Red Envelopes under the pillow when sleeping. They said children can sleep well without bad dream and become richer next year. The family expense increase sharply during Chinese New Year period. Usually, Chinese receive year-end bonus about one or two month salary pay. (The lucky one can even have one year salary) from the company before Chinese New Year holiday. Therefore most family can afford a better food, clothing and decoration for Chinese New Year. Banks will prepare many brand new bills for people to exchange. That's why all the lucky money in the Red Envelope are brand-new.
The last event is the vigil to wait for new year coming. One main reason is this can extend parents lifespan. The sound of Sleepiness in Chinese is similar to Trouble. Sleepless means no trouble for the coming year. How can Chinese keep them awake? It's simple. They watch TV shows for Chinese New Year special. The other way is gambling - playing Mah-Jong. It's required lots of skill, memorization, calculation, strategy and luck to win the money. Since the fully concentration, you will feel the time pass quickly. Usually, they will play Mah-Jong all night long, because the loser wouldn't quit.
Many people will gather outside the temple after reunion dinner, everyone wants to be the first person of the year to be blessed by the God. There is the first incense stick race at many temples every year. One the first second of Rat hour, 11 P.M., as soon as the temple's main gate is opened, people will dash into the temple to insert the incense stick into the incense container. The winner will win a big Red-Envelope from the temple. But the most important thing is the winner will be very lucky in the coming year.
After receiving the Red Envelopes, young people like to go outside for the vigil of the year. Before midnight, they gather with friends or relatives around park, riverside or tall buildings to wait for the Chinese New Year fireworks.
Chinese New Year Day - The First Lunar Day of The First Lunar Month
Chinese New Year fireworks will open the event for the Chinese New Year festival. The sound of firecrackers tells people the new year has arrived. People offer the New Year's greetings while they are watching TV shows, enjoying the fireworks, asking luck at temple or gambling. The most popular greeting is Gong Xi Fa Chai (Cantonese pronounces Gong Hay Fat Choy), which means "congratulations and make a fortune." The firecracker and congratulations greeting are from the story of animal Nian. "Make a fortune" is to wish people rich, because Chinese love to talk about money.
Some Chinese family change the new clothes right after midnight or the Rat hour in the Chinese New Year Eve. Then they choose the lucky hour from Chinese Farmer's Calendar to worship spirits and commemorate ancestors with candles, fruit, rice cake, tea, long noodle and candies. The purpose of this worship to tell spirits and ancestors the new year arrives. In the end of the ceremony, they will open the door, select a lucky money direction to explode the firecrackers, which means to get rid of old bad stuff and welcome the new coming. Some Chinese family give the Red Envelope to children at this time, then the children go to bed.
After dawn, it's time to say Chinese New Year greetings to neighbors, friends, coworkers, and relatives. Before time of telephone, school teachers will go back to school to greet each other. Government employees will go back the office to say happy new year. Now many people say Gong Xi Fa Chai by phone or send the greeting by e-mail.
On the Chinese New Year day, Chinese eat the breakfast without meat from the New Year Eve leftover. At noon, they have to worship the Spirit of The House with simple animal sacrifices, vegetables and rice. At the evening, they commemorate and worship family ancestors again with full dinner food.
In the morning, all the children are supposed to wear new clothes, pants, shoes, hat or jacket. Every family should prepare many different kind of sweet candies in a tray for people visiting their houses. If a child goes with adult to visit someone and says Gong Xi Fa Chai, he can receive a Red Envelope. In Taiwan, the president, city mayors and temples will prepare many Red Envelopes for their supporters. Since the number of Red Envelopes is limited, people have to go earlier and wait in a long line in order to have a handshake and Red Envelope.
Chinese New Year day is closed to the early spring. That means it's a beginning of blossom season. The popular flowers for Chinese New Year are orchid, narcissuses, peach flower, chrysanthemum, kumquat, cherry blossoms, camellia and so on. So some people like to visit the flower garden or attend flower expo to enjoy the sight of flowers or bring some flower pots home.
Some Chinese would like to take whole family to countryside to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Some like to go to temple to see the crowd and pray for coming luck. Today, more young people go to department stores to spend their Red Envelope money and shop for the New Year special bargains or go to movie theater with friends. Certainly, some are still like to sit by the Mah-Jong table to earn money.
It's getting less chance to see the lion dancing or dragon dancing on the modern city street. People have to go to national culture streets to see the Chinese New Year traditional activities. Over there, people can see lion dance, the god of money, parade, open theater opera, puppet show, etc. They also can buy different traditional candies, their zodiac animal symbols, food, gifts from the culture stores.
Chinese keep the lion dancing custom is because that they think lion image can expel the evil spirit away. Chinese believe that dragon is charge of rain. The dragon dancing is praying for appropriate rain to grow the more crops during the farmer society. Also, dragon is an auspicious and notable symbol which can bring people luck.
The unique style of music for Chinese New Year can be hear at Chinese New Year Music (MP3). You can hear those music from department stores, radio stations, TV stations, and during the lion dancing or dragon dancing on the street.
There are some taboo on the Chinese New Year Day.
The Second Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Day of Son-In-Law
Many Chinese families worship the God of Land every 2nd and 16th lunar day. This is the first time of the year to worship the God of Land with animal offerings and ask for safety and luck. Some Chinese will eat dumpling because its shape like ancient Chinese money - gold ingot.
The big event for this day is that a married woman can return her mother home. Usually, the newlywed woman's brother will come to take her sister home in the morning. The husband must escort his newlywed wife to see parents-in-law. Certainly, the married woman needs to prepare Red Envelopes for her parents, nephews and nieces. The lunch time is their reunion dinner. The married couples will leave after 3:00 PM. Long time ago, married woman will bring back a pair of sugar cane and a pair of chicken. Sugar cane stands for the sweet marriage life. The chicken stands for more children.
Some married women's parents past away, then they either stay husband house or return to her eldest brother's home.
If every married woman returns her mother home on the 2nd lunar day, then the husband house might be without women's hands to entertain his married sisters. Therefore, some married women return home on the third lunar day.
The Third Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Red-Dog Day and Mice Wedding Day
The third lunar day of the year is Red Dog day according to Chinese Farmer's Calendar. Red Dog is the name of the God of Anger, who brings bad luck to people. So people don't like to go out on this day, otherwise they can lose temper easily and have argument with others. Actually, After 2-day celebrating, eating, drinking, playing, gambling, many people are tired and might get up very late. They said that if people want to work on this day, they won't get much progress. Therefore, the Red Dog day is a good excuse for people need a rest.
They also said that people should turn off the light and go to bed early, because the night is the Mice's Wedding Day and we shouldn't disturb them. The other saying is we want to make it dark, so mice have difficulty to making the wedding, which can slow down mice's breeding. In the old farmer society, people will leave a few of rice or cake in the corner of a room for the mice at night.
Anyway, to get up late and turn in early is for those people who were busy to prepare for Chinese New Year festival since last December have a chance to take a break.
Some people bring trash, which accumulates since Chinese New Year Eve, outside the house on this day. They said that's to sweep out the Poor Spirit from the house.
The 4th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - Welcome the God of Stove Back
On the 24th of 12th lunar month, The God of Stove went back the Heaven to report his duty. The God of Stove will return the house on the 4th lunar day of Chinese New Year.
Since the Heaven is far away from the Earth, it will take almost a day for The God of Stove to travel down to Chinese family's kitchen. The God of Stove must leave the Heaven in the morning. He should arrive people house in the afternoon. Therefore, the Welcome Ceremony will be in the afternoon.
This same to the Farewell day, Chinese prepare animal sacrifices, fruit, food, cake and wine to worship The God of Stove. After the Welcome Ceremony, Chinese family will explore firecracker to welcome The God of Stove back into the house.
The 5th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - Open Business Day - Welcome the God of Wealth
After 4-day vacation, people are ready to go back to work. Most of companies will open business on the 5th lunar day. Many Chinese always select an auspicious hour from Chinese Farmer's Calendar to open the company door. Company owners have religious will worship the Gods of Wealth with animal sacrifices before opening business. After the ceremony, they will explode a long firecracker to get people's attention. Today, some cities ban the firecrackers, people play the recoding sound of firecrackers from tape or DVD players.
The lion dance team will parade on the street with the sound of drums, cymbals and firecracker. They are waiting the stores to invite them to have a lion dance for the opening business. Then lion dance team wish the store have a prosperous business to bring in wealth and treasure all year long. So they will be rewarded a Red Envelope from the store owner after the performance.
Sometimes, we can see someone wearing the God of Wealth's mascot to ask Red Envelope from the opening stores. Many store owners are reluctant to give away the Red Envelope. But no store wants to expel the God of Wealth away.
The exploding sound of the firecracker tells people the company is ready for business and ask people to come into the door. Usually the first customer might get a Red Envelope from the store owner. It's very important that a company cannot fail the first transaction of the year.
The New Year Greeting Party of schools, big corporations or government departments should be held on New Year Day. But many people don't want to spend valuable time on the New Year day; so many organizations move the New Year Greeting hours on this day.
Also, the 5th lunar day is a trash day. All trashes collected from the New Year Day Eve, finally, can get rid of it from the house. Everything should return to normal.
The 6th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - Clear-Water Master Day (The God of Pig Day)
This day is the death anniversary of the Clear-Water Grand Master. The Master was a monk in Sung dynasty. He prayed for rain many times to save people during the drought. He persuaded people to build many bridges and to plant trees. Many miracle events happened after his death. Once he lived at Clear-Water Rock Mountain. So people call him Clear-Water Grand Master. His temple will have a big ceremony on this day. Many people are still on holiday vacation and will go to attend the ceremony.
In the agriculture society, before the toilet age, Chinese farmers called someone to clean the manure pit every 3 to 5 days. This is the day to clean the manure pit.
In Taiwan, there is a contest for the title of the God of Pig at the temple of Clear-Water Grand Master. The heaviest pig can win the title. The 2007 winner pig was close to 2000 lbs. All the contest pigs will be killed, haircut, colored and shown their back on the truck. Because the God of Pig is so heavy, the owner can sell pork for more than a million Taiwanese dollar.
The traditional Chinese opera will be invited and perform on the street for days to celebrate this special festival.
The 7th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Human Day
According to Chinese genesis, the goddess with snake body (2852-2738 B.C.) created chicken on the first day of the first lunar month, dog on the 2nd day, sheep on the 3rd day, pig on the 4th day, cow on the 5th day, horse on the 6th and human on the 7th day.
The goddess made many human using mud mixed by yellow soil and water. Also she taught human about the marriage; so human can reproduce themselves. Therefore, the 7th lunar day of the year becomes the human's birthday.
Almost no Chinese celebrate on this day. Some people just eat pettitoes with angel hair noodle. The long noodle stands for longevity. Once, Chinese ate seven vegetables (celery, shepherd's purse spinach, green onion, garlic, mugwort and colewort) on the human day, which can repel the evil spirits and sickness away.
The 8th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Completion Day
The holiday for government and business company ends on the 5th lunar day. But some people take long days off until 8th lunar day. The Completion Day means people should return from the holiday vacation and go back to work. All the meat and cake prepared for Chinese New Year should finish on this day. Everything should back to normal.
The 8th lunar day of the first month is also the birthday of Yen-Lo King, who is 5th king of Legendary Hellin 5th palace.
The 9th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Birthday of King of Heaven - Jade Emperor
According to Taoism (Daoism), the Jade Emperor lives in the 33rd heaven and governs 33 heavens; so he is the king of heavens. Jade Emperor is a vegetarian. To celebrate his birthday, Chinese prepare three bundles of long noodle, three tea cup with green tea, five different kinds of fruit and six different kinds of dry vegetables to worship Jade Emperor. But people also prepare five animal sacrifices, different sweet cakes and turtle cake (turtle is a symbol of longevity) on a different table for Jade Emperor's guardian soldiers.
To show the sincerity, many people take bath on the 8th lunar night, then wait for the first minute of 8th lunar day to begin the ceremony with their clean body. After the ceremony, Chinese explode the firecrackers. That's why we can hear the scattered sound of fire crackers from midnight to sunrise. The temple of Jade Emperor will be crowded as the Chinese New Year day since the night of 8th lunar day for those people unable to hold the worship event at home. For the same purpose, Chinese always pray for better luck, safety, health, love or money, when they visit the temple.
The 10th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Eating Day
On the next day of the Jade Emperor's birthday, there are many food left from the birthday's ceremony. People have to take care all the vegetable, animal scarifies, cakes and fruit on the 10th lunar day of the year.
The 11th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Break Day
There is no special event on the 11th lunar day. Some families will invite daughter and son-in-law back to the house to enjoy the final meal left from Jade Emperor's birthday feast.
The 12th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Diarrhea Day
Many people keep eating with greasy food from Chinese New Year Eve for 11 days. They might have a trouble for diarrhea on this day. For some people have to begin to prepare the Lantern Festival, which is on the 15th lunar day.
The 13th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Death Anniversary of General Kuan Yu
All the festival food probably is gone on the 13th lunar day of the year. People just eat something simple on this day. This day is also the death anniversary of General Kuan Yu. Some Chinese will visit the temple of General Kuan to pray for safety and money luck.
Kuan Yu was a general in Three Kingdom period, (2211-263 AD), after late Han Dynasty. He killed a bad guy and disguised himself with a red face when young. He helped his friend and tried to recover Han Dynasty. People remembered his brave and skillful in fighting, righteousness, loyalty to friends, faith and act of justice. But he ended with a beheaded general. After his death, his spirit wouldn't die and his divine image appeared on the sky several times. People worship General Kuan Yu to repel evil spirit away. Also, some Chinese treat General Kuan as a God of Wealth. This is because General Kuan won hundreds of battles and business people want to won the battle on the business deals.
The 14th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Lantern Decoration Day
The day before the Lantern Festival, the Lantern Display stage will be building on the open square in the front of temples. People will bring their designed lantern to the display stage for the competition. A dedicate delicate lantern might take more than a month to complete. The ancient lantern has a candle inside to keep it bright. Candle might cause a fire. Today's lantern is lighted up by the electricity. Therefore people need to test the lantern at night. If any performance on the Lantern Festival will have rehearsal on this day.
Before adult made lanterns for children on the 14th lunar day. Now children can go to the store to find and buy their own lantern. The most popular lantern is always related to the Chinese horoscope animal of the new year.
The 15th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Lantern Festival
The Lantern Festival is called Yuan-Xiao Festival in China. This is because Chinese eat Yuan-Xiao on this day. Yuan-Xiao just look and taste like Tang-Yuan (See Winter Solstice - Tang-Yuan Day) . The difference is the way they made.
The Lantern Festival is also called San-Yuan (upper period of the year) Festival in Taoism. This day is the birthday of the Heaven Officer who blesses human luck. So many people have a worship ceremony at home and some go to Taoism temple pray for luck.
Yuan-Xiao Festival is a traditional Chinese festival going back to the Han Dynasty of over 2000 years ago. There is a story about the Lantern Festival. A beautiful heavenly bird flew down a village and was killed. The God of Heaven was very anger and wanted to burn down the entire village on the 15th lunar day. One wise guy advised every family hang candle lanterns around the house, carried lantern on the street, burn fire outside to explode the firecracker at the 15th lunar night. The soldiers of the God of Heaven saw the village was on fire from the heaven, and returned back to the heaven. The village survived and people keep the lantern activity on this day every year.
Today, not too many children carry the candle lanterns on the night of 15th lunar day. But lantern displays are shown in the town center square or next to the temple. The most popular lantern is the animal symbol of the Chinese calendar year. The gods, saints and fairy of Taoism or historical figures are popular and common subjects.
Besides the lantern display, a traditional riddle games will be held in the temple. The questions are related with to the lantern displays, news or popular persons in town. When the game begins, the person who figures out the answers first, can win a price.
Lantern laser show, flying sky lantern, mass firecrackers, fireworks and music concerts are essential activities. The events continues all night long. After Lantern Festival night, people need to back to the normal life. Students will end of the winter vacation around this day.