The Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, is the most important festival for Chinese people. Legend has it that in ancient times, there was a monster called “Nian” (“year”) that would come out to eat people and animals on the eve of every New Year. To avoid the monster’s attack, people would flee to the depth of the mountains and call this day “Nian Guan” (meaning “the Pass of Nian”). On one New Year’s Eve, there came an old beggar in Peach Blossom Village, where an old lady gave him some food and asked him to hide himself in the mountain to avoid the monster Nian. The old man promised that he could drive the monster away as long as he was put up for the night at the old lady’s home. Being unable to persuade the old man into hiding in the mountain, the old lady went alone. In the middle of the night, the monster Nian dashed into the village. He trembled and cried when he saw the red paper on the door of the old lady’s house, which was brightly lit. Just as the monster reached the entrance, there came blasting sounds that prevented him from moving any further. At that time, the old man, wearing a red robe, opened the door and the monster was scared away. After that, on every New Year’s Eve, every household would paste red couplets, lit off firecrackers, and lit candles, as well as stay awake all night, to avoid being attacked by the monster.
China’s most important holiday
Chinese New Year is the longest national holiday in China, spanning a total of fifteen days, and New Year’s Day is the most important date in the Chinese calendar.
Although China has used the Gregorian calendar since 1912, Chinese New Year is based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar, and it falls on the second new moon after winter solstice – somewhere between January 21 and February 19, meaning it changes from year to year.
It is pronounced “Gong Xi Fa Cai” in Mandarin and “Gong Hey Fat Choy” in Cantonese, although both are written the same way.
Roughly a sixth of the world will celebrate it
As well as being celebrated in China itself, celebrations occur in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and all countries where there are significant Chinese populations.
London and San Fransisco both claim to host the largest celebrations outside of Asia but celebrations occur in most Western countries.
Goat or sheep?
2015 is the year of the goat, but you may see it referred to as the “Year of the Sheep”.
The confusion stems from the Chinese character “yang”, which can translate in colloquial Chinese as either sheep or goat.
Those born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1967, 1979, 1991, or 2003 are goats, who can count their lucky colours as brown, red, and purple.
Their characters are kind and peaceable, while their best months are August and November and their lucky flowers are primroses and carnations.
Year of the Goat
The Year of the Goat is just one of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs and each animal is matched to the elements (gold, wood, water, fire, and earth). This, coupled with different emperor reigns, helped people to remember who was when, enabling the Chinese to trace back 3,000 years with great accuracy.
Personality of the Goat
People born in the Year of Goat are tender, polite, filial, clever, and kind-hearted. They have special sensitivity to art and beauty and a special fondness for quiet living. They are wise, gentle, and compassionate and can cope with business cautiously and circumspectly. In their daily life, they try to be economical. They are willing to take good care of others, but they should avoid pessimism and hesitation.
Children will sleep with money under their pillow
Children will be given red envelopes filled with money to bring happiness and good fortune.
The envelopes themselves are good luck, as well as the contents, and some children will sleep with their envelopes under their pillow for up to seven days to increase their luck.
A common misconception is that everyone receives money from everyone as part of Chinese New Year celebrations. In fact, only people who are not married receive the red packets of money (hong bak) and only those who are married give them out.
The final day of Chinese New Year celebrations, Day 15, is the Lantern Festival, where red lanterns are released into the sky. The Lantern Festival is one of China’s important traditional festivals and can be traced back more than 2,000 years. At the beginning of the Eastern Han Dynasty, Emperor Hanmingdi was an advocate of Buddhism. He heard that some monks lit lanterns in the temples to show respect to Buddha on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Therefore, he ordered all temples, households, and royal palaces to light lanterns on that evening. This Buddhist etiquette gradually formed a grand festival among people.
Another story states that the Lantern Festival was originated from the Torch Festival. During the Han Dynasty, people in rural areas held torches to scare away beasts and insects to reduce insect damages and pray for a good harvest. Nowadays, during the Lantern Festival, people in some areas of Southwest China still have the tradition of lighting torches made of branches or reeds and dance in groups in the fields. The Lantern Festival became very popular during the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties about 1,000 years ago. According to historical records, during the festival, hundreds of thousands of singers and dancers participated in the celebration which lasted from morning until dawn.
Happy Chinese New Year from all of us at Sandman Hotel Group!