Celebrating Chinese New Year, Feb 19, 2015

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2015 Chinese New Year English Greetings Red Background Illustrat

Chinese Spring Festival, also called Lunar New Year, has more than 4,000 years of history. Being one of the traditional Chinese festivals, it is the grandest and the most important festival for Chinese people.

Shang DynastyIt is also the time for the whole families to get together, which is similar with Christmas Day to the westerners.

Originating during the Shang Dynasty (about 17th – 11th century BC), Spring Festival, which celebrates family reunion, is full of rich and colorful activities, and hopes with the advent of spring and flowers blossoming. People from different regions and different ethnic groups celebrate it in their unique ways.

Festival Time

It comes on the first day of Chinese lunar calendar and lasts for almost half of a month. But in folk custom, this traditional holiday lasts from the 23rd day of the twelfth month to the 15th day of the first month (Lantern Festival) in the lunar calendar. Among these days, the New Year’s Eve and the first day of the New Year is the peak time. The exact days are different in every year according to the lunar calendar. Schedule of Spring Festival in recent years is offered in the following table.

The Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year as it is sometimes called, is a 15-day festival in traditional custom. It can be generally divided into three periods, the days preceding the festival, the festival days and the days after the New Year Day.

History

It is said that the custom of Spring Festival started in when people offered sacrifice to ancestors in the last month of Chinese lunar calendar.

Han Dynasty (202BC-220AD)At that time, people prepared the sacrifice by doing thorough cleaning, having bathes and so on. Later, people began to worship different deities as well on that day.

It is the time that almost all the farm works were done and people have free time. The sacrificing time changed according to the farming schedule and was not fixed until the Han Dynasty (202BC-220AD).

The customs of worshipping deities and ancestors remains even though the ceremonies are not as grand as before.

It is also the time that spring is coming, so people held all kinds of ceremonies to welcome it.

Legends

There are many legends about Spring Festival in Chinese culture. In folk culture, it is also called “guonian” (meaning “passing a year”). It is said that the “nian” (year) was a strong monster which was fierce and cruel and ate one kind of animal including human being a day. Human beings were scared about it and had to hide on the evening when the “nian” came out. Later, people found that “nian” was very scared about the red color and fireworks. So after that, people use red color and fireworks or firecrackers to drive away “nian”. As a result, the custom of using red color and setting off fireworks remains.

Festivities Schedule

Preparing the New Year starts 7 days before the New Year’s Eve. According to Chinese lunar calendar, people start to clean the house on Dec. 24(Feb. 12, 2015), butcher on Dec. 26th(Feb. 14, 2015) and so on. People have certain things to do on each day. These activities will end Jan. 15th of the lunar calendar.

Customs and Practices

Paper Cut, Paper Cut of Character ‘Fu’ Meaning , Happiness and ‘Feng’ Meaning Harvest Every family does a thorough house cleaning and purchases enough food, including fish, meat, roasted nuts and seeds, all kinds of candies and fruits, etc, for the festival period. Also, new clothes must be bought, especially for children. Red scrolls with complementary poetic couplets, one line on each side of the gate, are pasted at every gate. The Chinese character ‘Fu’ is pasted on the center of the door and paper-cut pictures adorn windows.

Taboos

The Spring Festival is a start for a new year, so it is regarded as the omen of a year. People have many taboos during this period. Many bad words related to “death”, “broken”, “killing”, “ghost” and “illness” or “sickness” are forbidden during conversations. In some places, there are more specific details. They consider it unlucky if the barrel of rice is empty, because they think they will have nothing to eat in the next year. Taking medicine is forbidden on this day, otherwise, people will have sick for the whole year and take medicine constantly.

Festival Food

Chinese dumplings jiaoziChinese Dumplings, Dumplings, Traditional Food of Spring Festival – Learn to Make Dumplings Food during this happy event has its characteristics, which is the representative of Chinese festival food culture.

Dumplings and the reunion dinner are indispensable at this time. Cold and hot dishes are all served.

Fish is always an important dish then, which expresses people’s hope of having a wealthy year.

Best Places to Go

In China, different places have their own traditions and activities to celebrate the Spring Festival. Beijing, Guangzhou, Xian and Pingyao are some good places to go if one intends to come during the time period. If one does not want to travel so long, but still want to enjoy the atmosphere of Chinese New Year, the local Chinatown is the best place.

New Year Greetings in Chinese

Chinese new year greetings

The Paper-cut

china new year papercutPaper-cut is a very distinctive visual art of Chinese handicrafts. It originated from the 6th century when women used to paste golden and silver foil cuttings onto their hair at the temples, and men used them in sacred rituals. Later, they were used during festivals to decorate gates and windows. After hundreds of years’ development, now they have become a very popular means of decoration among country folk, especially women.

The main cutting tools are simple: paper and scissors or an engraving knife, but clever and deft craftspeople are remarkably good at cutting in the theme of daily life. When you look at items made in this method carefully, you will be amazed by the true to life expressions of the figure’s sentiment and appearance, or portrayal of natural plants and animals’ diverse gestures. Patterns of chrysanthemum display the curling petals, pied magpies show their tiny feathers and others such as a married daughter returning to her parents’ home, or young people paying a New Year call to their grandparents.

Although other art forms, like painting, can also show similar scenes, paper cutting still stands out for its charm – exacting lines and ingenious patterns which are all hand-made. To make the three-dimensional scenes pop out visually from the paper, as they are usually in monochrome, engravers must exert their imagination. They must delete secondary parts and compose the main body properly, abstractly and boldly. Though simple, the color then appears charmingly bright.

the character ‘Shou’ represents longevityThe image of an ethnic minority girl cut with paper It is easy to learn about cutting a piece of paper but very difficult to master it with perfection. One must grasp the knife in an upright fashion and press evenly on the paper with some strength. Flexibility is required but any hesitation or wiggling will lead to imprecision or damage the whole image. Engravers stress the cutting lines in several styles. They attempt to carve a circle like the moon, a straight line like a stem of wheat, a square like a brick, and jaggedly like the beard.

People find hope and comfort in expressing wishes with paper cuttings. For example: for a wedding ceremony, red paper cuttings are a traditional and required decoration on the tea set, the dressing table glass, and on other furniture. A big red paper character ‘Xi’ (happiness) is a traditional must on the newlywed’s door.

Upon the birthday party of a senior, the character ‘Shou’ represents longevity and will add delight to the whole celebration; while a pattern of plump children cuddling fish signifies that every year they will be abundant in wealth.

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