History of Chinese New Year

For many here in Australia, the year officially started weeks ago. However, for many cultures such as the Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese, the new year will only begin on the 1st February 2022.

Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival is one of the world’s most celebrated holidays spanning two weeks long. Chinese New Year is a celebration that has been around for thousands of years and millions of people from all across the world celebrate it every year. Hence, it is steeped in tradition, many festivities, and countless superstitions!

Why is Chinese New Year celebrated?

Chinese New Year is celebrated to mark the start of the Lunar New Year, celebrating the arrival of spring, which is significant in the early farm-based society in Asia as it marks the start of the planting season.

According to folklore, Chinese New Year is a celebration that started after the battle against the Nian was won. The Nian is said to be a terrifying beast that attacked villages and ate children for years before it was eventually defeated by the people with fireworks and firecrackers.

So how do you say happy new year in Chinese?

The safest go to phrase for many is “Gong Xi Fa Cai”, which literally means “Congratulations and prosperity to you!”.

So, when is Chinese New Year in 2022?

Chinese New Year dates are dictated by the lunar calendar, so it is celebrated on a different date in January or February every year.  This year, Chinese New Year falls on February 1. It marks the beginning the Year of the Tiger which will continue until January 21, 2023.

Although the official date for this year’s Chinese New Year is on the 1st February, the Chinese New Year celebrations actually kicks off during the reunion dinner, which falls on the night before Chinese New Year. The reunion dinner is one of the most important parts of the festival as it is considered by the Chinese as the most important meal of the year.

For those who celebrate Chinese New Year, the days preceding the reunion dinner will see everyone making hectic plans to make it in time to catch up with their loved ones in their hometowns.

In a traditional reunion dinner celebration, extended families spanning generations sit together for a meal at round tables heaving with platters of delicious dishes with symbolic meanings. If one were to choose only one day of the two week long Chinese New Year festival to go home to visit family, this would be it!

Two weeks of merriment

In countries where Chinese New Year is the main celebration, the lead up to the festivities is similar to how Christmas is celebrated here in Australia- everyone will take the opportunity to request for a long vacation from work so that they can start off the year feeling refreshed and energised.

While the Chinese New Year festivities take place over two weeks, some days hold more significance over the others.

On the morning of the first day of the Chinese New Year, families first set off some firecrackers in order to drive away evil spirits. Then, Chinese families from all across the world will make visits to relatives, friends, and neighbours. Young children will be given “Hong Pao” (red packets). These red packets are filled with money and symbolizes good luck.

Traditionally, the second day of Chinese New Year is for welcoming sons-in-law or visiting the wife's family. Daughters and sons-in-law will usually spend this day with their parents.

Families burn incense and light candles on the fourth day of Chinese New Year to welcome the kitchen gods as it is believed this is the day he returns to earth from the heavens.

The fifth day of Chinese New Year is the God of Fortune’s birthday. Families celebrate by preparing a bountiful meal. They will also keep their doors or windows open as a welcoming gesture towards the God of Fortune.

It’s everyone’s birthday on the seventh day of Chinese New Year! According to legend, the mother goddess Nu Wa created human beings on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year. Thus, this day is commonly referred to as "Ren Ri”. It is regarded as the common birthday of all humans and the Chinese people take this opportunity to reflect on the year they have had and to show their gratitude for their blessings.

The Jade Emperor's Birthday, which falls on the ninth day of Chinese New Year, is a major celebration for those of the Taoist faith. In certain provinces, the celebrations on the nineth day are even more important and louder than the first day of Chinese New Year! Families will usher in this day with fireworks, incense, and a huge spread for the Jade Emperor (a whole roasted pork is a must!).

The Lantern Festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. On this day, people will light up lanterns, eat Tang Yuan (Glutinous rice balls), guess lantern riddles and enjoy the time with families or partners.

Tang Yuan is a delectable dessert made of glutinous rice flour which usually stuffed with sesame, peanut, bean paste and served in a sweet soup. The Tang Yuan is shaped like a ball, thus it believed to symbolize the full moon and people's desires for a full life filled with many family reunions.

In Ancient China, women weren’t allowed out of the house. The Lantern Festival was one of the rare occasions where young women and men were able to freely explore and mingle during the festivities in town. This is why the last of day of the Chinese New Year celebrations is also known as the “Chinese Valentine”!

Happy Chinese New Year from Asian Pantry team!

We hope this brief history of Chinese New Year had been interesting yet entertaining for you. Our team at Asian Pantry wishes you and your family a Happy Chinese New Year. May the year of the tiger bring you roaring success, and much happiness!

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