Lighting up the Sky: The Chinese Lantern Festival
Chinese celebrate the New Year with family unity. Family members visit each other and share meals, including a large feast on the eve of the Chinese New Year. It is a time of celebration, festivities, and gift-giving. The Chinese New Year is a spectacle to behold, and if one hasn't participated in the celebrations before, it is an event that is not soon to be forgotten. Install lantern light fixtures, indoors and outdoors, to recreate this festive look at home.
The Chinese New Year
The traditional Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, differs from the Western New Year. This is mainly because the Chinese calendar is based on a lunar solar year, or dates dictated by the moon phase. The Chinese calendar breaks the year into 24 segments, called jieqi . Each of these consists of 15 days. Traditionally, the Chinese New Year starts on the first day of Lichun (the first of the 24 jieqi), marking the end of the winter season. The celebration lasts for fifteen days before ending with the Lantern Festival, which commences on the fifteenth day, also known as the Chinese New Year's Eve. On this day, Chinese families gather for a reunion dinner to celebrate the Eve of the Passing Year.
The Chinese regard the Chinese New Year as the most significant celebration of both ancient and modern Chinese culture. It has origins in century-old myths and traditions. An ancient claim suggests that a Han Dynasty emperor ordered a lights spectacle on the fifteenth night of the first portion of the lunar calendar year, in humility to Buddha. Others believe that Buddhists carried torches to illuminate their surroundings, so as to see the deities floating in the air on this special night. Alternative sources dictate that the festivities did not commence until the reign of Emperor Jui Tsung of the Tang Dynasty, circa 710-713AD. It was rumored that the emperor had a thousand ladies dance and sign in a brightly colored plaza. Reputedly, Hsuan Tsung, the descendant of Jui Tsung, ordered beautiful women to sign and dance in the same plaza with colored lanterns.
Traditions of the Chinese New Year
Densely populated countries and territories with Chinese cultural influence, such as mainland China, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Tibet, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Chinatown, will initiate these annual festivities. Participants will spend money on presents, extravagant ornaments, food, material, and clothing. Traditionally, each family sweeps out negativity from the household with wishes of drawing in good fortune. Additional house decorations will drape along the doorways and windowsills to attract good fortune, happiness, prosperity, and longevity. The reunion dinner consists of roasted pig, duck, and chicken, along with sweet desserts. Families will set off firecrackers as a final celebration to end the night. In the morning, the children will greet their parents and grandparents and then receive their red packet envelopes full of money. The Chinese New Year grants families the opportunity to forgive all past grudges and reconcile towards peace and happiness for everyone.
Foods During The Chinese New Year
The Chinese celebrate the New Year with a variety of foods. In fact, certain foods are reserved especially for this time period, such as Chinese dumplings, fish, spring rolls, and Nian Gao. Chinese dumplings, a traditional food consisting of minced meat and chopped vegetables, have a thin wrap of dough skin. Chinese dumplings can be filled with pork, shrimp, fish, chicken, beef, and chopped vegetables. An urban legend challenges family members to eat as many dumplings during the festivities to save more money during the New Year. Spring rolls garnered their name from the Spring Festival, and consist of sweet and sour savory fillings, oftentimes different vegetables and meat. The fillings are wrapped around in dough skin and then fried until reaching a golden-yellow color. Nian Gao consists of sticky rice, chestnuts, sugar, Chinese dates and leaves. The Chinese believe in eating more Nian Gao to increase the level of prosperity in the New Year.
Important Symbols of the Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year symbols allegedly draw prosperity and happiness into the lives of all who participate in its festivities. The Chinese regard flowers to be an important symbol for the Chinese New Year, especially plum blossom and water narcissus. Families cherish hong bao envelopes for gift-giving, particularly with money. These envelopes are generally meant for children and young adults, in the same light as Christmas gifts. They are red in color (hence 'hong,' which means 'red' in Mandarin), which is a symbol of good luck. The Chinese will display the word "fu," or fortune, to increase the feeling of general luck in the home or business establishment. Other important symbols include spring couplets, tangerines, oranges, pomelos, trays of togetherness, and the display of the Chinese zodiac.
The Chinese Lantern Festival
The Chinese Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar year, and symbolizes the end of the New Year festivities. During the Lantern Festival, children scramble out to the temples at night to retrieve paper lanterns with the intention of solving riddles inscribed on them. The Lantern Festival has origins in ancient China, whereby only the emperor and noblemen had large and ornate lanterns. Modern lanterns have embellished designs, oftentimes taking the shape of animals. Foreign regions and countries often refer to the Lantern Festival as the Chinese celebration of Saint Valentine's Day, because of the heavy emphasis on love and affection between lovers in Chinese cultural tradition. The Lantern Dance has gained attention from foreigners due to its elaborate dragon dance, whereby a giant dragon made of silk, paper, or bamboo dances in the streets for sheer entertainment. In the United States, Chinese-American communities will incorporate bands and floats for an added parade effect. The Chinese Lantern Festival highlights and wishes for an abundance of prosperity and happiness for all.
Article Written by +Colby Harris