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your guide to everything from importance of the colour red to firework bans

Creator : Jingjing Ruan, Lecturer in Mandarin Chinese language, Cardiff College

February 1 marks the beginning of the Chinese language new 12 months 2022, the 12 months of the tiger, and celebrations will finish two weeks later with the Lantern Pageant (元宵节). The tiger is the third animal of the 12-year cycle of Chinese language zodiac indicators, and well-known individuals below this signal embrace Queen Elizabeth II, Marilyn Monroe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise and Woman Gaga.

As probably the most conventional and celebrated vacation in Chinese language tradition, the lunar new 12 months (also called the Spring Pageant (春节)) is just not solely a time to rejoice the start of spring but in addition an event for household reunion. In China, a variety of celebration actions might be staged for 2 weeks: fireworks, firecrackers, pageant decorations and quite a lot of exhibits. Within the UK, celebrations too have been deliberate at dwelling, in colleges and on-line.

Household time is of utmost significance in Chinese language tradition. The run-up to new 12 months’s eve is normally spent travelling, with everyone heading to their hometowns for household reunion. Homes and flats will get a deep clear in readiness for a recent 12 months forward (having to brush the ground on new 12 months’s day is taboo and related to sweeping good luck and wealth away).

Red Chinese Lunar New Year decorations hanging.
Spring pageant decorations.
Ethan Wong/Unsplash, CC BY

Each household may have an extended listing of pageant requirements to purchase for Chinese language new 12 months, together with a number of pink decorations, new 12 months outfits and presents. Pageant decorations might be hung up, resembling pink paper-cuts on home windows (窗花), and spring couplets and banners on doorways (春联). Guarding gods posters might be pasted on entrance gates for safeguarding. Fireworks and firecrackers might be set off to scare away evil spirits and to sign the beginning of a protected and affluent new 12 months.

Purple is taken into account the color of luck. As soon as the brand new 12 months arrives, new pink outfits are worn to go to family members and buddies, to trade blessings and presents. Throughout these visits, youngsters will get pink paper envelopes full of money notes (红包), symbolising that dangerous luck is pushed away and success is handed on. Other than visiting family members, individuals additionally go to temples to worship ancestors and pray for well being, success, fortune and a greater 12 months.

What do individuals eat?

Meals additionally performs an important half in these celebrations and a few dishes believed to convey luck will at all times be ready – what they’re varies significantly throughout China.

Fish (鱼) is a should as it’s usually seen as an “additional” (余), symbolising abundance. Sticky rice cake (年糕) can even be a favorite, and it is because the phrase in Chinese language feels like “12 months excessive”, which means increased earnings and promotion. Oranges (桔) are thought-about fortunate because the phrase feels like “fortunate” in Chinese language (吉).

There are nevertheless some variations relying on the place you might be. In northern China, individuals wish to eat dumplings (饺子) as they’re thought to resemble gold ingots. Whereas in southern China, you usually tend to have ping-pong formed sticky rice balls with candy fillings (汤圆) because it sounds just like the phrase for “togetherness” (团圆). It’s additionally widespread to have a tray of sweets or a platter of bite-sized treats symbolising reunion and togetherness.

A table of sticky rice cakes.
Sticky rice desserts.
Darren Kurnia/Shutterstock

On new 12 months’s eve, ready for midnight, household and family members will take pleasure in consuming collectively, taking part in video games like mahjong, and watching the Spring Pageant Gala on TV. Whether or not at dwelling or abroad, this tends to be a must-do for a lot of Chinese language households.

Traditions are altering

Like all customs and traditions, issues change over time. At the moment, pink envelopes are sometimes despatched through apps resembling WeChat, a messaging app that permits individuals to make cellular funds. Though the reunion dinner remains to be vital, many Chinese language households now favor to eat out quite than prepare dinner collectively at dwelling. Fireworks and firecrackers are sometimes banned in respect of the setting, and it’s not uncommon to listen to the cacophony of firecrackers performed from recordings by audio system as an alternative.

Dragon puppet being made to dance by men.
Dragon dancers at Chinese language New 12 months celebrations in London’s China City.
Tadeusz Ibrom/Shutterstock

But when some traditions have light with time, others are nonetheless very a lot alive and handed on, from one era to the following, by Chinese language communities and Chinatowns worldwide. Within the UK, there’s a sizeable Chinese language neighborhood who migrated from Hong Kong and south-east Asia within the 1950s, and from mainland China within the 1980s. Celebrations nonetheless function pink decorations, household gatherings and celebration occasions like parades with energetic lion and dragon dances.

Earlier than the pandemic, the most important celebrations in London would happen in Trafalgar Sq., Leicester Sq. and Chinatown. Whereas parades have once more been cancelled this 12 months, a wealthy selection of on-line actions has nonetheless been programmed all through the UK. And, in fact, with the Beijing Winter Olympics beginning on February 4, there might be an added dimension to conventional actions.

However, regardless of how a lot Chinese language new 12 months celebrations have modified over time or whether or not it’s celebrated in China or all through the Chinese language diaspora, the center of the Spring Pageant stays the individuals, a robust sense of togetherness, and the concept that the 12 months to return would be the likelihood for a brand new begin that’s brighter and extra affluent.


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