Chinese New Year
In China, New Year's Day is on the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar. The date may differ each year. It is at the end of January or in early February. People return home to China from all over the world to celebrate the day. In other countries, people who live in big cities in areas called Chinatown also celebrate.
The Chinese New Year is also called the Spring Festival. It is from the ancient tradition which marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring with a celebration. It is the start of a new growing cycle on the earth. Family and friends get together. The event is full of colorful decorations and traditions. Chinese New Year is over 4,000 years old.
Their celebration starts on New Year's Eve. A big party is held on the next day. The entire event lasts 15 days. After the 15 days, the Lantern Festival occurs at the time of the first full moon.
The families start getting ready for the event two weeks ahead of time. They clean their houses to get rid of all the bad luck which has accumulated in the previous year. After the celebration, a person cannot clean a room for several days or he might sweep out the good luck which has come in. Cleaning up also means apologizing to friends and paying off bills.
Red and gold are the Chinese colors. Banners in these colors are hung everywhere as decorations with wishes for good luck written on them. For the Chinese, red and gold are lucky colors. Red symbolizes life and happiness. Gold symbolizes riches.
Food must be prepared ahead of time because it is unlucky to use a knife during the New Year's festival. A knife may cut off all the good luck for the New Year. People decorate their houses with some of the lucky plants. Orange trees, pussy willows and mandarin trees are several which are bought.
A celebration can only begin after the family pays respect to their dead relatives. On New Year's Eve, the families go to the temple to pray for good luck in the coming year. They carry food or incense to try to please the spirits of the dead.
Chinese red and gold lanterns are hung all around the towns. Firecrackers are also a big part of the celebration. They are lit outside businesses and houses to scare away bad spirits. They are also a part of the big parades.
A lion performance is acted out by two people. One holds the head and one the body of the lion. The performers put on acrobatic stunts. The lion actors run along the streets accompanied by drums, gongs and cymbals. Their purpose is to bring goodwill to all. A 'laughing Buddha' goes along with the lion actors. He teases the lion and makes him fall down and roll around. People standing along the road place red envelopes into the lion's mouth. They contain money which is a donation for whatever martial arts school is putting on the show.
Sometimes a business hangs a head of lettuce from the ceiling. The actor in the lion outfit has to reach up and pick off the red envelope from inside the lettuce. Then the lion spits out the leaves to spread good luck. At the end of the performance, a scroll pops out of the lion's mouth carrying a message of good luck. The usual colors for the lion outfit are red, green and gold.
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