Swinging into the Chinese New Year

Swinging+into+the+Chinese+New+Year

BALDWIN PARK, CA — On Monday February 8th, 2016, people around the world will be celebrating the arrival of the Lunar New Year, known by many as Chinese New Year. Traditionally, the holiday is celebrated both before and after the official Chinese New Year day. Some festivals and celebrations are held as early as two weeks before the big day and will not end until after February 22nd, the 15th day of the new year and the traditional end of all festivities.

Chinese New Year is not set on a single official date on the Gregorian calendar. The day is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar, which can start and end on different days that do not correlate with the Gregorian calendar. Chinese New Year’s Day is always somewhere between January 21st to February 20th. In 2015, Chinese New Year’s Day was on February 19th while this year, the big day is on February 8th.

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Chinese New Year treats at Hawaii Supermarket in San Gabriel.

Each new year represents an animal on the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese zodiac is comprised of 12 different animals, meaning the animals are cycled every twelve years. This year is the year of the monkey.

Like many other Chinese holidays, Chinese New Year is defined by its numerous and memorable traditions. The following list of traditions only name a few of the largest and most popular:

Candy Box

During the time around New Year’s Day, most households will have a box of Chinese sweet treats in the living room. Many families that celebrate Chinese New Year expect visitors throughout the week, so the box of treats provide snacks for the visitors and represent the hospitality the family shows for whatever luck comes its way.

Red Envelopes

This is a favorite tradition of many celebrators — the unmarried ones at least. Starting on February 8th, married couples will be keeping their pockets lined with red envelopes filled with money, ready at any moment to be given out. The recipients of the envelopes are usually children (traditionally any unmarried person) and must wish the giver (usually a family member) a happy Chinese New Year and follow with some auspicious wishes to get the envelope.  

New Clothes

A popular new year’s tradition is dressing up with new clothes on New Year’s Day. The new clothes represent new beginnings and signal the fresh start to a hopefully great year.

Cultural Festivals20160130_115946

Festivals are huge in the Chinese and Asian community in general when new year’s is around the corner. Big festivals take place in Alhambra and Monterey Park. There, people can eat New Year’s delicacies and watch traditional Chinese performances, such as the lion dance.

“Usually, at my church, there’s a festival,” explained junior Leanne Do. “There’s a dragon dance where two guys wear a dragon costume and do tricks, like standing on each other. Then the kids will give the dragon a red envelope with money that the dragon ‘eats.’ The dragon represents good luck.”

Temple Visits

Crowded temples are a general sign of the approaching Chinese New Year. Most celebrators choose to visit the temple to pray and receive blessings for a healthy, smooth, and prosperous new year. The temples also provide a good chance to get into the New Year’s spirit and enjoy traditions and foods that come only once a year.

Firecrackers

Lighting firecrackers on New Year’s Day is a loud and proud tradition. Large strings of red firecrackers are lit to “sound out” the old year and “sound in” the new year. Children also play with little bang snaps (or poppers) to imitate the same effect. The tradition is meant to bring good luck for business in the upcoming year.

Reunion Dinners

The greatest tradition practiced on Chinese New Year is the reunion dinner. Families meet up in the evening of New Year’s Day to enjoy one meal together. For many families, this time is the only time when all members of an extended family meet up after an entire year to talk and enjoy festivities. Many believe this meal to be the most important meal of the entire year.

“For my dad’s side of the family, family from Washington comes and we usually go to a cousin’s house,” described junior Lisa Nguyen. She also spoke about typically celebrating the new year by eating many traditional Vietnamese foods for the main dinner, such as bánh chưng, a sort of Vietnamese rice cake.

Chinese New Year is a celebration of hope for the new year to come. It is a time of happiness and celebration for friends and family. Despite it’s name, Chinese New Year can be celebrated by anyone anywhere. So, if you decide to do one thing this upcoming weekend, get ready to swing into the Year of the Monkey.

 

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