New Years celebrations in Chinese cultures

Chances are, you’ve seen the “Chinese New Year” label on your calendars every January. But what is it?

This year’s Chinese New Year will be celebrated on Jan. 31. While it might be 2014 for us, it’s 4712 for them. The Chinese follow a lunar calendar based on phases of the moon; their New Year will last for roughly 15 days until the brightest moon phase.

This year will also be the year of the horse. The Chinese have 12 animals that each represent a different year named by Buddha, according to legend. It is also said that folks born in that particular year often mimic the personality of their year’s animal. For either those born this year or those born in previous years of the horse, it is said they will be jovial, proficient with money, observant, humorous and talented with their hands.

New Years traditions in the United States range from watching Dick Clarke to stealing a kiss at midnight to eating pork and sauerkraut. For Chinese cultures, the Chinese New Year is one of their oldest traditions complete with family, food and fireworks.

Festivities are often decked in red, including the clothing of the partiers. The emphasis on red symbolizes the color of fire, which is said to chase away bad luck. The fireworks draw on ancient roots in the same belief. The bright, hissing flames were thought to chase and startle spirits and bad luck.

A popular artistic expression during the celebrations is the lanterns. During the lantern festival on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, lanterns are painted and decorated with animals, zodiac signs, scenery and history. They can be seen during the evening parade and hang from local shrines and buildings.

During the festival, folks look forward to the paper and bamboo dragon, which can be as long as 100 feet long. Guides lead the vibrant creation through the streets of the city during the parade.

There’s also a heavy emphasis on family during the Chinese New Year. Many meals and visits are shared with extended family, all surrounding the most important feast on New Year’s Eve.

Whether you’re in China, the United States or anywhere around the world, you can draw on your traditions and cultures to celebrate the New Year.

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