As the party season winds down for many, over a billion and a half people around the world are revving up to ring in the Year of the Snake with the biggest and most important celebration of the Chinese calendar, Chinese New Year.
Fifteen days of family, feasting and fortune kick off on Sunday February 10, 2013, marking the first day of the Lunar New Year. The celebration is a tradition steeped in history; legend states that the monster, Nian, would visit on the first day of every New Year to devour livestock, crops and the village children, so the villagers would leave plates of food at their doors in the hopes he would eat it and be satisfied. When they saw that Nian was frightened away by a child wearing red one day, they started to paint their windows and doors red, hang red lanterns around their homes, dress in red clothing and set off firecrackers. Nian never returned to the village.
Still to this day, the colour red is believed to drive away bad luck. Red is very prominent throughout the Chinese New Year; people wear red clothes and costumes, hang red decorations around their homes and children are given money in red envelopes.
New Year, New Haircut
In the days leading up to Chinese New Year, houses are scrubbed from top to bottom to rid any bad luck from the old year, and make way for the good. No cleaning can be done on New Year’s Day however; that would risk sweeping away all the incoming good fortune! Homes are filled with flowers to bring prosperity and new growth. A fresh haircut before New Year’s Day is a must as it symbolises a fresh start, and cutting anything during the Chinese New Year is considered bad luck.
Feasts and Fireworks
During Chinese New Year, families feast on plenty of meat, fish, dumplings, vegetables and citrus fruits – all important symbols of luck and good fortune. The tremendous amount of food prepared and enjoyed during Chinese New Year symbolises abundance and wealth for the family. Exciting, vibrant street festivals take place, with traditional dancing lions and dragons and colourful, loud firework displays to scare the evil spirits away.
One of the most well-known traditions of Chinese New Year is the giving of red envelopes containing money. Adults present children with a narrow, red envelope adorned with gold symbols for wealth, a long-life and happiness. As a sign of respect, children should not open the envelope in front of their elders.
2013, The Year of the Snake
In ancient times, legend states that Buddha invited all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Only twelve came, so Buddha named a year after each one. He honoured the animals by declaring that anyone born in each animal’s year would take on part of that animal’s nature. Much like the snake, people born during its namesake year are reputed to be complex, intuitive and logical.
So as the Year of the Snake slithers closer, why not join the festivities and pay homage to this most important of Chinese traditions, wherever you are in the world? Place flowers throughout your home, fill fruit bowls with mandarins and oranges, or try making your own meal of traditional Chinese cuisine to share with your family, with dumplings for good luck and a Chinese New Year sticky rice cake. Let good fortune fill your household, and be sure to greet your Chinese friends with a warm ‘Gung Hay Fat Choy’, meaning ‘Have a prosperous and happy New Year!
Experience China, Japan and Vietnam on a Trafalgar guided holiday, filled with magical sightseeing and unique Insider Experiences. Mingle with the locals, savour authentic cuisine and discover the unexpected! Visit www.trafalgar.com for more information on our exciting Asian itineraries.