Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year falls between the 21st January and the 20th February, and is the longest running festival in the Chinese Calendar. Small scale celebrations began c.2300BCE during the Neolithic, but it was not until the Shang Dynasty (c.1600-1050BCE) that New Years celebrations became a part of the year end religious ceremony. During the Han Dynasty (c.206-220BCE) New Years celebrations were officially recorded on the first day of the first month. Crack bamboo appeared in the celebrations at this time, the purpose of which was to scare away evil spirits with the loud sound it make in the fire. The use of fireworks was then introduced between the Wei Dynasty (C.220-265CE), and the Jin Dynasty (c.265-420CE).

Mythology

According to mythology, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical creature called the Nian; an ox-like creature with a lion head which inhabits in the sea or moutains. The Nian would come out during the night of New Years Eve to harm people, animals, and property. It was originally believed that if the villagers put food in front of their doors at the beginning of each year, the Nian would eat the food instead. They soon discovered that the creature feared the colour red, fire, and loud sounds. This provoked people to start the habit of posting the red duilian and red lanterns in front of their houses on New Years Eve, as well as launch firecrackers for their protection. The Nian was captured and used as a mount by Hongjun Laozu, who was an ancient Taoist monk.

Hand-painted Chinese New Year duilian: Peter Morgan
Hand-painted Chinese New Year duilian: Peter Morgan

Traditions

There are many traditions held for the New Years celebrations; the New Years Eve dinner, fireworks, Shou Sui (staying awake during the night of New Years Eve), red packets of money given to children, New Year Markets, Small Year (held on the 23th or 24th of the last month of the year), cleaning the house and housewares, and decorating (mostly in the colour of red).

Chinese Lion Dance Indonesia: Buddhayana Dharmawira Centre
Chinese Lion Dance Indonesia: Buddhayana Dharmawira Centre

 Chinese New Years Around the World

Check out one of these hot locations for your Chinese New Year celebrations.

Alternatively you can head to your local Chinatown or contact your local council to see if there are any local festivities. My local Chinese Club in Townsville held events, including traditional performances and food and a Chinese New Year dinner.

Lion dancing by Townsville Kungfu Academy: The Townsville Chinese Club Inc.
Lion dancing by Townsville Kungfu Academy: The Townsville Chinese Club Inc.
Did you know...

The Chinese New Year is not the only celebration of the Lunar New Year. Many other countries throughout Asia also celebrate on different dates, with their own traditions. In East and Central Asia the Lunar New Years celebrations were historically (and in some cases still) associated with the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar which occurs in late January or February. China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Tibet and Vietnam were all involved in this celebration. The Burmese New Year falls in April, along with the Cambodian, Lao, Sri Lankan, Nepali and Thai New Years celebrations. In India it is celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Hindu calendar, usually in March. The Islamic or Muslim New Year is based on a lunar calenday of 12 months which then reverts to the Gregorian and Julian calendar years, which means the New Year may fall in any season. Lastly, the many Jewish and Samaritan religious and secular traditions use a slightly different version of the Hebrew Calendar, but always fall in the same season.

Featured image edited with PicMonkey: crazy-awesome photo editing.

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