Various Celebrations of Chinese New Year

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The celebration I chose was the Chinese New Year. As part of this celebration I watched was the 2016 Chinese New Year Parades in Hong Kong and San Francisco. I watched this online via a YouTube videos. (Cemehob, 2016) (Chinese New Year Parade San Francisco 2016, n.d.). The parades were very colorful, and the participants and their acts varied greatly. It reminded me of the Thanksgiving Day Parade here in the USA. Each group that participates is celebrating two things, first the new year and the coming of Spring. There is not a specific date for the New Year, as it is decided by the Lunar Calendar. In 2019, the new year will begin on 20/05/19 and celebrations will last 15 days. While this celebration was started in China, other Asian nations have adopted the tradition.

There is a tradition that each year has a zodiac symbol. The Han Dynasty started this tradition. It was used to count the number of years in a 12-year cycle. Many Chinese people still use the zodiac symbols today to make choices in life, like who could be a friend, who to work with or even who to marry. (The Chinese Zodiac, n.d.). 2019 will be the year of the pig. (Chinese New Year Calendar, n.d.). This means that there are certain things that are lucky for people who were born during the Year of the Pig. For example, the following numbers are considered lucky, two, five and eight. Your lucky colors are yellow, gray, brown and gold. Lucky flowers are hydrangea and daisy. Not only are there things that are lucky, there are unlucky things for those born in the Year of the Pig, such as the numbers one and seven or the colors red, blue or green. (The Year of the Pig (Earth Pig Year 2019), n.d.)

Originally, in China, the new year was a time of fear because of the monster that came with it. The monster, Nain (which means year), would come to eat the townspeople and animals. He lived at the bottom of the sea. The one year, (depending on the myth) either an old man teaches the town people how to fight the monster or a young boy fights him off. The things used to fight were loud noises such as firecrackers, fire and the color red. No one is exactly sure when this celebration began in China. Some estimate it to have started 1766 BC-1122 BC, others state as early as -2300 BC. Another myth about the New Year is that there are demons who come out at night. Couplet poems were a way to protect your home. They are posted on both sides of your door. When the demons return to their homes before sunrise, they pass between two guards. If they harmed any humans during the night, they are punished. (10 Chinese New Year Myths, n.d.)

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This culture is all about family, success and tradition. It is very important that family is together during this time. So, people travel from all over to go home. It is a very busy time in China for travel. The people believe that what you eat and what you do on the Chinese New Year will have an effect on the next year. For example, it is taboo to shower on New Year’s Day, to prevent good luck being washed away. Also, “Sweeping and throwing out garbage isn’t allowed before the 5th…” is not allowed for the same reasons. (21 Things You Didn't Know About Chinese New Year, n.d.). The Spring Festival was a time about harvest and planting, The Chinese would and may still pray to their gods. They would also pray to their ancestors. One aspect of the holiday that most people would dread in any culture is not having a significant other to bring home. In China, people have paid for someone to pretend to be their boyfriend or girlfriend and take them home for the celebration. Another tradition, similar to the Easter Egg, is the red envelope. These are given out at Chinese New Year to children. Inside the envelope is lucky money. This represents passing the fortune from one generation to the next. (21 Things You Didn't Know About Chinese New Year, n.d.)

During the parade that I watched, I saw dragon costumes. Each costume required multiple people to wear or support, so they could weave back and forth in a rippling effect. I also saw people dressed as Chinese lions. The dragon and lions are supposed to bring good luck and good fortune. Firecrackers and the color red are also very prominent during the parade.(Euronews, n.d.). The parade I watched began with the lighting of a strand of large firecrackers. Next came the dragons, marching bands, dance groups and karate classes.

In Thailand, there is a festival that is similar to Chinese New Year in that it is celebrating the Buddhist’s New Year of Songkran. It takes place in April and lasts 3 days. This festival includes large statues of Buddha spraying water on parade watchers for good luck or a way to wash away bad luck for the coming year. Songkran is a water festival. There is a place called Phuket that has an extreme water fight during this celebration. The article I read said to plan on staying wet for multiple days. It was also noted that while it is tempting, men and women must remain dressed, no bikinis and men must keep their shirts on at all times. (Carruthers, 2018). In smaller villages fish are released into the rivers as acts of kindness. Also, during this festival people will show respect to others by tying strings to the other person’s wrist. Strings are to be left on until they naturally fall off. (New Year Celebrations Around the World, n.d.)There are no references to the Chinese New Year influencing the Songkran of Thailand.

Another culture that celebrates the new year is the Balinese. They probably have the most unique way to celebrate the Saka New Year, it is done in complete silence, called Nyepi. No one leaves their homes, and no one travels on the roads. The days before and after Nyepi have their own version of parades with “Pilgrims from various village temples all over Bali convey heirlooms on long walks towards the coastlines where elaborate purification ceremonies take place.” (Nyepi Day 2018 in Bali, n.d.)

I would love to visit some place that celebrated Chinese New Year. It is very colorful and cheerful event, that shows so much about the Chinese culture. The American New Year celebration has a few similarities to the Chinese New Year. For example, both are celebrated with specific foods. Americans, depending on where were raised will eat pork and sauerkraut, greens, lentils, grapes, long noodles, cornbread, whole fish, pomegranates, black-eyed peas or circle shaped foods or the New Year’s pretzel for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day meal. (McKenna, n.d.)While the Chinese will eat egg rolls because they symbolize wealth as they look like gold bars, Chinese noodles are served uncut, as they represent long life and shrimp because they represent happiness due to looking like smiles. Both countries have loud noises such as firecrackers or gunshots. The differences are, here in America, we watch a ball drop in Time’s Square to bring in the new year. Also, in America, New Year’s celebration is associated with parties and alcohol instead of time with families as in China.

I enjoyed learning about the Chinese culture and how they celebrate the new year. While there are some similarities there were more differences. This gives me a new perspective and gets me out of the bubble of “this is how we do things” attitude.

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