Chinese New Year starts with the new moon on the 1st day of the New Year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the New Year is called Â“Lantern dayÂ” and is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade. The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements.
The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days; in order to Â“catch upÂ” with the solar cycle, the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a nineteen year cycle) this is why the Chinese New Year falls on a different date every year.
Both New Years Eve and New Years Day are celebrated as a family affair.
The celebration was traditionally highlighted as a religious ceremony given in honor of heaven and earth, the gods of the household and to family ancestors.
The presence of the ancestors is acknowledged on New Years Eve, with a dinner arranged for them at the family banquet table. The spirit of the ancestors together with the living, celebrate the onset of the new year as one great community.
The communal feast called Â“WeiluÂ” or Â“Surrounding the stoveÂ” symbolizes family unity plus honoring both past and present generations.
The entire house is cleaned before New Years Day and on New Years Eve all cleaning equipment is put away, no cleaning at all should be done on New Years Day for fear that good fortune will be swept away.
Shooting off Firecrackers on New Years Eve is the Chinese way of sending off the old year and welcoming in the new. On the stroke of midnight, every door and window must be opened to allow the old year to go out.
Red is considered a bright, happy colour and sure to bring the wearer a sunny future, little red envelopes called Â“Lai SeeÂ” are given out to children and unmarried people, these envelopes contain money for good fortune.
Every traditional Chinese household should also have live, blooming plants, to symbolize rebirth and new growth. Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth and high position in ones career. Lucky is the home with a plant that blooms on New Years Day, for that foretells a year of prosperity. The Chinese firmly believe that without flowers, there would be no formation of fruits; therefore, it is of the utmost importance to have flowers and floral decorations; they are the emblems of reawakening of nature and are also intimately connected with superstition and the wish for happiness during the ensuring year.
While many Chinese people today may not believe in these doÂ’s and donÂ’ts, the traditions and customs are kept alive because most familyÂ’s realize that it is these very traditions that provide continuity with the past and provide the family with an identity.