The new year is celebrated throughout the world at different times according to
the solar or lunar calendar. The Gregorian solar calendar celebrates the
beginning of the new year on the first of January. For the Muslims, the new
year, Awal Muharram, is based on the lunar year in the spring. Similarly,
Chinese New Year is celebrated according to the lunar calendar. However, all the
new years represent a fresh start.
In fact, for the Chinese, Chinese New Year
is their most important festival.
Preparation starts months ahead, usually with spring-cleaning. Many people
give their houses a new coat of paint to spruce them up. Some people put up
paper couplets with wise sayings on the front doors. In many households where
Buddhism or Taoism is practised, home altars and statues are cleaned thoroughly
A shopping spree also takes place at the same time. New clothes are bought
for everyone. New year cookies like 'love letters', pineapple tarts and
niangao are musts in every household. They all have
auspicious significance indicating a prosperous year ahead. All
varieties of delicacies are bought in preparation of the reunion dinner.
The dinner on the eve is a very special dinner as all members of the family
come back for it. The married sons will bring their families with them. Usually
a feast is laid out with fish and chicken
and all kinds of treats for the family. Each family has its own countdown party
with more food and drinks.
On the first day of the new year, in the traditional families, the children
will offer tea to their parents. The parents will then give angpows, red
packets with money, to their children. This is to wish them good luck and
blessings for the new year. Another custom is to visit the oldest and most
senior members of the extended family, usually their parents, grandparents or
great-grandparents. No sweeping is allowed on the first day so brooms and
dustpans are put away. This is to ensure that good luck is not swept away.
Chinese New Year is celebrated for fifteen days. The seventh day is another
special day. It is traditionally known as 'renri', the common man's
birthday, the day when everyone grows one year older. It is celebrated by eating
a colorful raw fish salad, yusheng. As people toss the colorful salad,
they make wishes for continued wealth, health and prosperity.
There are two other significant days. One is the ninth day or rather the
midnight of the eighth day. It is an important day for the Hokkiens as they make
thanksgiving offerings to the Jade Emperor of Heaven. The other is the fifteenth
day. It is celebrated as Yuanxiao jie or Chap Gob Mei. Rice dumplings (tangyuan),
sweet glutinous rice balls brewed in a soup,
are eaten. This marks the end of the new year celebrations.
In conclusion, we can see that Chinese New Year is a time for all to get
together and renew their family bonds. It is the promise of fresh beginnings and
hopes of prosperity for the whole family.