Today and in the next few days, Chinese around the world are celebrating the Chinese New Year which starts Sunday, February 14, 2010.
This is the Year of the Tiger.
In China, years are named after animals based on the rotating cycle of “Twelve Animal Signs.” Every year is assigned an animal name according to a repeating cycle: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Therefore, every twelve years the same animal name would reappear.
My son was born in 1998, the Year of the Tiger. This year he turns 12. It completes a full cycle of the rotation. He will be 24 years old when the next Year of the Tiger comes.
People born in each animal’s year are said to have the personality of the animal.
Tigers are brave, daring, independent, kind, friendly and generous.
The date of the Chinese New Year is determined by the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The Chinese calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. It starts on the first day of the new year containing a new moon. In the Chinese calendar, the beginning of the year falls somewhere between late January and mid February.
Chinese New Year is also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival. In China it is commonly known as the Spring Festival. It is celebrated after the fall harvest and before the spring planting season.
Of all the traditional Chinese festivals, the Chinese New Year is the most important one. It’s like Thanksgiving or Christmas here. It is a time of family reunion.
It is also a time of heavy travel. During the Chinese New Year the largest human migration takes place. Millions of Chinese in China and some all around the world set out to return home in order to have the traditional reunion dinners with their families on New Year’s Eve.
To prepare for the New Year, people do housecleaning. They sweep the dust and dirt out the door, along with all the bad luck that has collected in the house.
Houses are decorated with plants and flowers. The living plants symbolize rebirth and new growth, wealth and prosperity.
At Chinese New Year celebrations people often wear red clothes, decorate house with poems on red paper, and give children "lucky money" in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire and good luck.
The family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve is the most significent feast of the Chinese New Year celebration.
The tremendous amount of food prepared and consumed is meant to symbolize abundance and wealth.
A whole fish, a whole chicken to represent togetherness and abundance are served. Tangerines and oranges are symbolic of good luck and wealth.
In South China, the favorite dishes are nian gao, sweet steamed rice cake. In the North, people eat dumplings.
On New Year’s Eve, firecrackers light the sky, which symbolizes driving away evil spirits.
As the New Year starts, people begin going out to visit relatives and friends, taking with them gifts and good luck money for the children.
The New Year celebrations end on the 15th of the First Moon with the Lantern Festival. People hang glowing lanterns in temples, and carry lanterns to an evening parade under the light of the full moon.
The highlight of the lantern festival is the dragon dance. The dragon, which might stretch a hundred feet long, is typically made of silk, paper, and bamboo. Traditionally the dragon is held aloft by young men who dance as they guide the colorful beast through the streets.
Chinese New Year is celebrated around the world in areas with large populations of people of Chinese origins as well as ethnic groups who are strongly influenced by Chinese Culture.
The two most commonly used greetings during the Chinese New Year celebrations are Xin Nian Hao! (Happy New Year) and Gong Xi Fa Cai! (Congratulations and be prosperous)
And that’s also my wish to you all in the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Tiger.