Chinese New Year, 10 things to know

When the components older of the family open the hongbaomeans that the Chinese New Year it has now arrived. Inside those red envelopes there are some banknotes, strung by daughters and sons of working age. Envelopes that are opened even by the smallest components, even if in that case the banknotes inside the envelopes are a little less. A few weeks have already gone by since the beginning of 2023, yet there is a part of the world (and quite large too) that only celebrate these days the beginning of New Year. It is about that part of the world that celebrates the so-called lunar new year.

  1. Why is it called Lunar or Chinese New Year?
  2. Where is it celebrated?
  3. When is it celebrated?
  4. What’s the story?
  5. Why is this the year of the rabbit (but in Vietnam of the cat)?
  6. What is the legend behind the zodiac signs?
  7. How is it celebrated?
  8. What is the lantern festival?
  9. What do you eat?
  10. Why in Japan we don’t celebrate but in Okinawa we do?

Why is it called Lunar or Chinese New Year?

The holiday is called the Lunar New Year because it follows the lunisolar calendarwhose months I am lunar cycles. In East Asia the date is identified by following the Chinese calendar and this is why very often in the world we refer to the holiday by calling it Chinese New Yearwhile being celebrated not only in the People’s Republic of China but also elsewhere.

Where is it celebrated?

The Lunar New Year is celebrated in most East Asian countries, albeit very often with different traditions, rituals and symbols. In addition to Mainland Chinaof course we also celebrate a Taiwan, whose official name is still the Republic of China and has sometimes preserved even older traditions of Chinese culture. Fireworks also in South Korea and in Vietnam. Not in Japanwho abandoned the tradition as early as 1873.

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When is it celebrated?

It is celebrated every year between January 21 and February 20 of the Gregorian calendar. For 2023 falls very soon, Sunday 22 January.

What is its story?

Everywhere there are different stories. Chinese New Year has a history of about 3,500 years. It is believed that it may have originated in the Shang dynasty (1600-1046 BC), when people held csacrificial ceremonies in honor of deities and ancestors at the beginning or end of each year. It had become above all a custom for bless the crops at the turn of the changing seasons. Over the centuries, new traditions have been added, such as those of sending greeting cards, deliver cakes and money to relatives. On two occasions, Chinese governments have tried to eliminate the tradition, only to reintroduce it.

The first time it happened in 1928when in the then Republic of China (which at that time ruled all of mainland China but not Taiwan, which was colonized by Japan) the Nationalist government of Kuomintang decreed that New Year’s Eve would fall on January 1 of the Gregorian calendar. The decision was abandoned due to the overwhelming popular opposition. In the 1967during the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao Zedongthe official celebrations were prohibited but the old habits were restore in the 1980when Deng Xiaoping launched the era of reform and opening up.

Why is this the year of the rabbit (but in Vietnam of the cat)?

As we are accustomed to in the West, they are also present in Asia 12 zodiac signs. They are not the same though. And above all the logic with which they are assigned is different: they do not vary according to the time of year in which you are born, but just from the year. That is each year corresponds to a different sign. And so the cycle repeats itself every 12 years. The year that opens on January 22 will be precisely that of rabbitwhile the previous one was that of tiger. In 2024 it will be the dragon’s turn. However, this is not the case everywhere. Vietnam and China share 10 of the 12 zodiac calendar signs, but the Vietnamese honor the cat instead of the rabbit and the buffalo instead of the ox. This year, in fact, in and around Hanoi we celebrate not the year of the rabbit, but that of the cat.

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What is the legend behind the zodiac signs?

According to mythi 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals have been selected through a race. To win, the animals had to cross a fast-flowing river and reach the finish line on the bank. After various vicissitudes, the first to arrive are in this order: mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog And pig. The lunar calendar order follows the outcome of the race, where the mouse is the first animal to start the sequence and the pig is last.

How is it celebrated?

New Year’s Eve night is characterized by a rich banquet. After dinner, it is common tradition to go to the nearest temple. Even for many not religious, in many cases it is more of a ritual than an act of faith. The celebrations then wind along 15 days, with a denser calendar in the early days. Starting on New Year’s Eve proper, known as Spring Festival in which one is called to welcome the divinities of heaven and earth at midnight. It is a traditional practice to kindle fireworks, burn bamboo sticks and firecrackers. Then there are (also abroad) groups of lion dance, born to ward off evil spirits. It is also the day when they exchange red envelopes.


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