How Do You Celebrate the Chinese New Year?

Little girl holding red envelope for Chinese New Year.
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The Chinese have one of the richest and most colorful traditions in the world, and one of their most anticipated celebrations is the Chinese New Year.

When is it Celebrated?

Spring festival, or what is better known as the Chinese New Year, is considered one of the most important events in China. The celebration is based on the lunar calendar, so that the first day of the lunar year marks the Chinese New Year. Thus, the event falls between late January and early February. The celebration begins on the eve of the lunar new year and continues on until the fifth day of the lunar calendar's first month. Next will come the lantern festival.

How is it Celebrated?

Generally, the Chinese people prepare for this holiday by making sure everything in their lives is in order, or at least under control. This means their homes should be clean, rifts or problems should be resolved, clothes worn should be clean or new, etc. At midnight there are fireworks and firecrackers to greet the coming of the new year. The belief behind this is that the noise created by the firecrackers will drive away evil spirits.

Music and the Chinese New Year

Here are several music resources you can use at home or in your classroom to celebrate the Chinese New Year:

What's on the Menu?

After the festivities, the family will sit down to a feast. The meal usually includes dumplings and a sticky rice pudding called nian gao (or "tikoy"). Nian gao is also given to family and friends; the belief behind this is that the stickiness of the nian gao will hold or bind the family together. Also, because of its round shape and sweet taste, it is said to bring good fortune and sweetness to one's life. In some homes, the nian gao is cut into lengthwise pieces, roll it into beaten eggs, and fried. It's delicious!

Other Aspects of the Chinese New Year

Houses are decorated with lights and lanterns. Red is a popular color to wear when ushering in the Chinese New Year. Also, hongbao, or red envelopes that contain money, are given to family and friends (especially the youngsters) as a symbol of luck and wealth. There are also lots of musical performances and parades; the most famous of which is the dragon and lion dance. In the Chinese culture, the dragon is the deity of water ensuring that no drought will come. The lion, on the other hand, helps ward off evil spirits since it symbolizes power and courage.