‘鸡年吉祥 – Jínián jíxiáng – Good luck for this Rooster year’.
Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year and Spring Festival, is celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. The first day of the New Year falls on the new moon between 21 Jan – 20 Feb. This year it was 28 Jan, year of the rooster. Or year of the cock, much to the amusement of westerners.The New Year Festival is centuries old and considered a major holiday for the Chinese. Traditionally it was a time to honour deities as well as ancestors but generally it is a time to celebrate the previous successful year and wish good fortune into the next. The main traditional celebration include the ‘reunion dinner’ of New Years Eve, belkueved to be the most important family meal of the year, the giving and receiving of red envelopes containing money, firecrackers meant to ward off bad spirits and many decorations. It is traditional for the Chinese to purchase whole new outfit – including socks, shoes and coat – to wear on New Years Day in order to start the new years in new attire. Red is the main colour of the festival as it is believed to be an auspicious colour and it dominates the decoration of kanterns, banners and couplets, depicting images and words of good fortune and prosperity. Certain foods are also eaten during this holiday because of their symbolic meaning. Fish in particular, and eating fish is believed to bring a surplus of money and good luck in the coming year, the image of the fish also dominates decorations. For those whose year it is – the rooster – it is tradition for them to wear red, even if it is just underwear (red underwear is largely sold this time of year) to ward off bad luck and misfortune. Depending on where you are in the country depends on how you see CNY celebrated. Smaller towns are more traditional whilst larger cities will have bigger parties and displays. Beijing is interesting; as it is the capital you would anticipate large parades however aside from the exploding of firecrackers at nearly every street corner, Beijing is quiet. Generally speaking the people of Beijing are not from Beijing therefore come CNY everyone begins the return home for the holiday, leaving the city the quietest I have ever seen it. The roads lack traffic and people are scarce. It is like a ghost town and in comparison to its usual intense bustle, a welcome change. As CNY is a more family orientated holiday and aside from bijou the Chinese do not drink much alcohol, you do not see streets full of singing drunks, overflowing bars and loud parties.Following the actual night, celebrations continue through persistent firecrackers each evening and temple fairs throughout the days. These fairs hold typical arcade games and food stalls and the colour is amazing. The games are impossible to win – no matter how hard he tried, Josh just could not bag a giant teddy – but the food is amazing and the variety of activities entertaining. You cannot miss the obvious family reunions and traditions when simply people watching st these fairs. The Chinese give westerners and their celebrations of Christmas a good run for their money when it comes to CNY! It has been a lot of fun to experience and be a part of such a large, traditional holiday.