Happy Chinese New Year!

This year’s Chinese New Year celebration has begun, ushering in the year 4711 on the Chinese calendar. Each year is associated with one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. This year is the Year of the Snake.

In China, the Chinese New Year is also known as the “Lunar New Year” or the Spring Festival. Chinese New Year festivities traditionally run from Chinese New Year’s Day itself, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month, making this celebration the longest in the Chinese calendar. Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations: Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Philippines, and in Chinatowns around the world.

Regional customs vary widely, but it is traditional for every family to thoroughly clean the house; this sweeps away any ill-fortune and makes way for good incoming luck. In China, families gather at or near the home of the most senior member of the family for their annual reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve. The dinner is a large and sumptuous feast that traditionally includes dishes of meat such as pork, chicken, duck, and fish. Taking a family portrait is an important ceremony after the relatives are gathered. In the United States, many early Chinese immigrants arrived without their families, so many Chinese-American neighborhoods host community banquets.

Red is the predominant color used in New Year celebrations. Red is the emblem of joy, and is also a color of good luck. Bright-colored clothing featuring the color red is commonly worn throughout the Chinese New Year because it was once believed that red could scare away evil spirits and bad fortune. Windows and doors are decorated with red paper lanterns and scrolls with themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth, and longevity. Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes. People typically wear new clothes from head to toe to symbolize a new beginning in the new year.

During the Lantern Festival, people hang glowing lanterns in temples and carry lanterns to an evening parade under the light of the full moon. Some of the lanterns may be works of art painted with birds, animals, flowers, zodiac signs, and scenes from legend and history. In many areas 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. Lion dances are also common during Chinese New Year.

Learn more about the Chinese New Year at the following links:

http://www.chinesenewyears.info – Chinese New Year info: History, Calendar, Crafts, Traditions, Food, Greetings, Activities.

http://education2.uvic.ca/Faculty/mroth/438/china/chinese_new_year.html – The 15-Day Celebration of Chinese New Year.

http://www.history.com/topics/chinese-new-year – The Chinese New Year at History.com

http://quizzes.familyeducation.com/other-holidays/chinese-new-year/chinese-new-year-quiz.html – Chinese New Year Quiz, from Family Education.

http://www.topmarks.co.uk/ChineseNewYear/ChineseNewYear.aspx – Make a snake mobile for Chinese New Year, from Topmarks Education.

http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/chinesenewyear – Crafts and Activities for Chinese New Year, from Enchanted Learning.

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