Chinese New Year (AT-3)
Have you ever wonder what’s the difference between New Year's and Chinese New Year’s? Or how Chinese New Year’s became a thing, considering we, Americans already have a New Year’s? Is Chinese New Year’s a big deal?
Where does Chinese New Year’s come from? Well, there isn’t an exact beginning. The origins of this holiday isn’t clear so, we don’t really know much of the roots. For this purpose, we’ll just say about where it could be traced back to, which is the fourteenth century B.C.E. Apparently, Chinese New Year’s was first a religious ceremony during the Shang Dynasty, who ruled China from 1766 to 1122 B.C. How is new year’s determined? The difference between Chinese New Year’s and New Year’s is that Chinese New Year’s is based on a Lunisolar calendar while, New Year’s is based on the Gregorian calendar. How does a Lunisolar work? Well, you could probably tell by the name, but if it isn’t obvious then I’ll explain. A Lunisolar calendar is based off the phases of moon and then is adjusted in average length to fit the length of the solar cycle. While the Gregorian calendar originated from Julius Caesar’s calendar. Since Chinese New Year’s is based on a different calendar than ours (the Gregorian calendar), that means new year is on a different day for people who use the Lunisolar calendar. Chinese New Year’s usually lands somewhere in the late month of January or somewhere in the beginning of February.
The Chinese calendar can spark a memory about the zodiac. I assume many people think the Chinese zodiac doesn’t really have a purpose or is there for some religious reason that no one knows. However, the Chinese zodiac had/has (not really sure if it’s still used today for this intent) a purpose. They were created with the intention that it would be used for counting years. The zodiac originated from the Han Dynasty. The zodiac would’ve had an influence on people’s lives because some animals were superior to other ones. Why are there twelve animals? There are twelve animals because old-time division numbers were mostly related to the number twelve. Apparently, ancient people observed that there were twelve full moons in a year. As for the religious reason, it’s more of a superstition than a religious reason. It has something to do with a legend, I’m not going to go into that. How would you know what animal you are? It depends on what year you were born. For example, if you were born in 2002, your zodiac animal would be the horse. Apparently, the zodiac animal signs could be used as an advice on who you should date like if you’re a horse, you’d be best with someone whose zodiac sign is a tiger, sheep, or rabbit. Also, apparently it tells you what your lucky number is and what zodiac animal signs to avoid.
People who celebrate this holiday usually have a family reunion, set off fireworks and lanterns, eat mooncake, worship their ancestors, and give money to family members (usually the younger kids and the unmarried young generation). Typically, this holiday lasts about fifteen days. Each day is dedicated to a certain task. For example, on the fifteen day, a Lantern Festival is held, and people have another family reunion dinner. There are lanterns on displayed and around the dinner table. The reason why it is called a Lantern Festival is because of the lanterns. The lanterns are set free when it becomes dark to show the spirits the safe way to the afterlife. The Lantern Festival is the most important festival because it’s the first full moon in the Chinese calendar. It marks the return of spring and is a symbol of family reunion.
One of the many traditions is to give money to family. The money is given in a little red envelope as a way of protection and good luck. The reason behind giving money away in a red envelope is because of a legend. According to the legend, a monster (Sui) appears a day before New Year’s with the intention of hurting the children. It said that the Sui makes the child or the children develop a fever and become an idiot. As a way to protect the children from Sui, God sent eight coins attached to a red string to keep Sui away from the children. Why the color red you may ask? The Chinese consider red as a symbol of happiness, good luck, and energy. Therefore, sending the money in red envelope is a way to wish the person good luck and happiness. Also, the money isn’t what is considered important, it’s the envelope itself that is considered important.
Chinese New Year’s has had many evolutions when it began, every dynasty would add a little thing to the celebration. For example, the Han Dynasty started to crack bamboo. It was believed that the loud sound of cracking bamboo, when put in fire, would scare the evil spirits. Then the Jin and Wei Dynasty later added fireworks to the celebration. Finally, the Song Dynasty added fireworks with the use of gunpowder. In 1912, China adopted the Western calendar because they it was introduced to them. China officially added January 1st to their new year. Mao Zedong, a Chinese communist leader, forbade Chinese New Year’s until the end of the 20th century. Chinese leaders embraced the Chinese New Year’s. China established a break for everyone to celebrate the holiday. Chinese New Year’s is also called the Spring Festival. China isn’t the only country that celebrates this holiday, other countries do too. However, most of the countries who do celebrate Chinese New Year’s has a huge Chinese population or they go with the Lunisolar calendar like East Asia. There hasn’t been any significant changes in the Chinese New Year’s, the reason why it even started has stayed the same. None of the changes over the years to the holiday has impact any of China’s values at all.
From all the information that has been gathered about this holiday, we can infer that China still values filial piety. Filial piety isn’t a new concept for the Chinese and it certainly not a new value for them. They’ve always valued filial piety, and then Confucius improved how important it is with his philosophy. Another thing that China seems to value or believe in is good luck and driving away the bad spirits. How do can we assume this? Well, for starters, the Lantern Festival, and sending money in a red envelope. In preparation for Chinese New Year’s, there is a day dedicated to spring cleaning because they believe that cleaning out the house can get rid of the leftover spirits that haven’t already left and their bad luck in the past year(s). One more thing we can infer that the Chinese value is education or the importance of their child or their children being smart. The legend that was told for the red envelope shows us that education is an important value to the Chinese. The little detail about how the monster would make your child or children become an idiot supports the idea that education was and still is an important aspect to the Chinese.
I hope that you’ve gained some information about this complicated holiday such as the origins, values, and the evolution of Chinese New Year’s.