In China, other Asian countries, and in communities of Asian people around the world, people are celebrating what they consider to be the most important holiday on the calendar–the lunar new year. Often called “Chinese New Year” in the West, the lunar new year is celebrated in most Asian countries and in many Asian communities in other parts of the world. This new year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice (when the sun appears at its most southerly position—on December 21 or 22). In 2018, the second new moon occurs on February 16 in the West.
Year of the Dog.
The year 2018 is the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese zodiac, a cycle of 12 animal signs used in a system of astrology practiced in China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and other Asian countries. This system assigns an animal sign to represent each lunar year, and the cycle repeats every 12 years. A person’s animal sign is thought to have a great influence on his or her personality. People born in the year of the dog are said to be loyal, honest, and eager to help those who are close to them.
An Ancient Calendar.
This year, 2018, corresponds to the year 4716 on the traditional Chinese calendar. According to tradition, the Chinese calendar was invented by Huangdi, the legendary “Yellow Emperor,” around 2637 B.C. He is credited with advancing the civilization of China and inventing many useful items, including the wheel, the compass, Chinese medicine, and money. Historians believe the legends of the Yellow Emperor are based on an actual ruler in ancient China. Upon his death, legends say he rose to heaven and became an immortal being. Today, the Yellow Emperor is venerated as a deity in Chinese traditional religion.
According to tradition, people born under the sign of the new zodiac year are believed to anger Tai Sui, the God of fortune in Chinese traditional religion. As a punishment, those who were born under the current animal sign will have mostly bad luck over the year. Many people wear red clothing throughout their zodiac year because red is considered an auspicious—or lucky—color. Jade jewelry is also worn because of its powers to ward off bad luck.
Sweep out the old!
In preparation for the new year, people believe they must try to complete unfinished business from the current year. People might pay remaining debts or get rid of old furniture. They also clean their house very carefully to sweep out all the bad luck that may have built up over the past year.
On New Year’s Eve, the celebration begins with a reunion dinner, and all family members try to attend this meal. Each year, many millions of Chinese travel home for the New Year’s celebrations. For this meal, special foods are chosen. For example, a whole fish might be served because the Chinese word for fish sounds the same as the word for plenty in Chinese. So, the fish served becomes a wish for abundance in the coming year. People also serve nuts and sweets, hoping to set a trend for the year. Children receive gifts of New Year’s money in red envelopes.
Happy New Year!
Gong Xi Fa Chai (gong ZEE fah tsai) is the traditional Cantonese New Year’s greeting to wish someone joy and prosperity in the new year. The festivities continue for 15 days until the next full moon. Then, the Lantern Festival traditionally marks the end of the new year celebration. This year, the Lantern Festival is observed on March 2.
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