The University is a place which embraces cultural diversity and the Lyons New Media Centre is no exception! Our staff team represents a diverse group of cultures and ethnicities and we encourage this to play into the holidays we highlight in our area. So, for the next two weeks, we’ve got the Centre decorated up for Chinese New Year! I asked one of our student employees if she would be willing to write a little bit about this celebration for us, to help enlighten us as to what this holiday is all about, common traditions, etc. Here’s what she had to say:
Chinese New Year is the most important and celebrated holiday in China. In fact, Chinese New Year is very much comparable to the Christmas holiday in that it is similarly celebrated with family gatherings, gift-giving, festive decorations and the eating of various symbolic foods. All of the traditions associated with Chinese New Year are meant to bring good luck, fortune and happiness in the new year as well as to welcome the coming of Spring.
The date of Chinese New Year differs from year to year because it is based on the lunar calendar which follows the cycles of the moon as opposed to the longer cycles of the sun in the Gregorian calendar. This is also why Chinese New Year can be referred to as Lunar New Year. The official date of Chinese New Year is the first day of the lunar calendar and celebrations last for 15 days, concluding with the Lantern Festival.
Before New Year’s Day, it is customary for families to thoroughly clean their homes. Doing so is said to remove any of the bad luck leftover from the previous year and leave the home ready to accept good luck for the coming year. All this cleaning must be completed before the day of New Year’s, as to clean on the day of means to throw out the good fortune of the new year. Another popular custom is to decorate the home with signs or posters with the Chinese characters of luck or happiness written on them. This again is meant to bring in as much good luck for the new year as possible. Many individuals also will cut their hair and buy new clothes to wear on the New Year’s Day in order start the new year fresh.
On New Year’s Eve, many families will visit temples or shrines to pay tribute to their ancestors by worshipping them and providing offerings for their blessings and protection over the past year. Prayers for good fortune and happiness are simultaneously done at this time. At midnight fireworks are launched and it is believed that the more fireworks there are and the louder they are, the most luck there will be in the new year.
On New Year’s Day, the whole family (immediate and extended) gathers for large meal. Usually this meal includes 8 to 9 courses as these numbers are associated with luck in Chinese. Popular foods served at this time include dumplings (which symbolizes wealth because they look like golden nuggets), oranges or mandarin oranges (which are round and symbolize completeness), noodles (which are long and symbolize longevity) and fish (which has a similar pronunciation in Chinese to the word meaning having a surplus of).
On this day it is also a tradition for adults in the family to give all the unmarried members of the family (usually the children) money in red envelopes called hong bao in Mandarin or lai-see in Cantonese. These represent and are meant to increase wealth and prosperity in the new year.
From New Year’s Day to the day of the Lantern Festival, similar celebrations are held repeatedly but in moderation. After the initial gathering with family, many use these days to meet with close friends and to continue praying for good fortune in the new year.
On the 15th day after New Year’s Day, the Lantern Festival is held and marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. This is another time for the family to gather and is essentially a party under the full moon. Traditionally the festival involves children making paper lanterns with which to illuminate and march with under the full moon.
The colour red plays a very prominent role throughout the celebrations as well and is often seen on clothes, decorations and even food. This colour is believed to ward off any unluckiness and is associated with loyalty, success and happiness.
~ Olivia, LNMC Student Assistant
Thank you to Olivia for this write up, and to her and another one of our student employees, Ying, for their contributions to our Chinese New Year displays, both physical and digital.
And to all of you: may you have happiness, good luck and wealth. Happy new year!
~ Kelly, Library Media Specialist