The origins of Chinese New Year are based on the mythical tale of a beast known as Nian. According to legend, Nian came to a village in China every New Year to eat livestock, crops, and villagers. In particular, Nian loved to eat little children. To make sure that Nian did not eat them, villagers placed food in front of their doors believing that they would be safe after Nian ate their offerings. On one occasion, the villagers noticed that Nian was frightened by a child in red clothes. Every year after that, the villagers used firecrackers and hung red lanterns and scrolls all over the village to scare Nian away. Nian never bothered the villagers again.
In addition to being the most important holiday in the Greater Chinese region, Chinese New Year is often celebrated in countries that have been heavily influenced by the Chinese culture such as Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia. Chinese New Year is a 15 day celebration. In China, this is an official government holiday that lasts an entire week. Chinese New Year follows the zodiac calendar; 2010 is the year of the Tiger.
In China, this holiday is synonymous with travel. Chinese New Year falls around the same time as Chunyun, otherwise known as the Spring Festival Travel period. During this time, migrant workers and other travelers commute long distances to visit family. This mass travel period is reputed to be the largest annual human migration in the world.
During each of the fifteen days of Chinese New Year, various religious customs are followed. In conjunction with these customs, certain foods are consumed on certain days to symbolize the various aspects of Chinese New Year. On New Year’s Eve, the fifteen day celebration culminates in a large feast with friends and family. Popular food to serve at this dinner includes chicken, duck, pigs, and specialty sweets that are only made around this time of year. After the feast is over, families will conclude the night by setting off fireworks. On New Year’s Day, family members exchange gifts. This is also the time that elders give younger children red envelopes filled with money symbolizing luck.
In the United States, many Asian communities continue to celebrate Chinese New Year. Every year, there are parades in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and other metropolitan areas. Those not in large cities typically gather at local temples or shrines to celebrate locally.
Although not everyone celebrates Chinese New Year, the tenants of this holiday are universal to all. The core principle of this celebration is family. It is a good time to forgive and forget and to wish loved ones happiness and peace for the year to come.
To all clients who observe this holiday, the staff at Zhang and Associates, P.C. would like to wish you and your family a happy Chinese New Year!