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Chinese New Year – Year of the Horse 2014

Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is known as "Spring Festival", the literal translation of the Chinese name Chūn Jié (春節).

The festival begins on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. Chinese New Year's Eve, a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner, is known as Chú Xī (除夕) or "Eve of the Passing Year." This year Chinese New Year begins January 23 and continues until February 6. Originating during the Shang Dynasty (16th - 11th century BC), Spring Festival, which celebrates family reunion, is full of rich and colorful activities, and new hopes with the advent of spring and flowers blossoming. People from different regions and different ethnic groups celebrate it in their unique ways.

The Origin of Spring Festival

According to legend, a demon would torment people once a year during winter. People were very afraid of it, so they gathered to discuss how to deal with the demon. Some people suggested that the demon was afraid of the red color, flames and loud noises. So people put red couplets on their gates, set off fire crackers and beat gongs and drums to drive the demon away. Their ideas worked and the demon ran away. Thus the customs of celebrating the Spring Festival were born and passed down.

The Customs of Spring Festival

Chinese have many traditional customs relating to the Spring Festival. From the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, people start to prepare for the event. Every family undertakes a thorough cleaning, does their Spring Festival shopping, creates paper-cuts for window decoration, puts up New Year pictures, pastes Spring Festival couplets, pastes “Happiness”, makes New Year cakes, and also prepares all kinds of food to bid farewell to the old and usher in the new.

From the first day of the lunar year, people visit relatives and friends and greet each other, which is an important custom for the Spring Festival. The greetings are “May you succeed in everything”, “May everything be smooth as your wish”, “Business Flourishes”,” Wishing You Prosperity”, “Peace All Year Round”, “Promoting To a Higher Position ”.

“Happiness” Upside Down'Happiness' Upside Down

 When New Year comes, people in China hang the character “Happiness” upside down on the door. In Chinese, “upside down” is a homonym for “to arrive”, so this is a pun for “happiness arrives.”

Pasting “Door-God”

 In ancient times, there was an arched door formed by a huge peach tree in the Du Shuo Mountain in the East China Sea. A devil often came out through the door and went down to hurt people.

Generals Shen Tu and Yu Lei

The Jade Emperor learned of this and ordered Generals Shen Tu and Yu Lei to guard the arched door and capture the devil. Shen Tu and Yu Lei came to the Du Shou Mountain, and waited for the devil nearby the arched door. The devil walked out from the arched door as usual. Shen Tu and Yu Lei arrested the devil with magic, and sent him to the Jade Emperor. From then on, the devil couldn’t hurt people again.

Since then, when Spring Festival comes, people draw the two generals Shen Tu and Yu Lei on peach wood and hang them on the doors to keep evils away. That is the origin of the Door-God.

Lucky Money

 Children especially like celebrating Spring Festival because they can receive lucky money on New Year’s Eve, which is called Ya Sui Money. Ya Sui Money is given in the new year with good wishes. The money is daintily put in a red paper bag and is distributed to minor juniors by the elders after the clock strikes twelve midnight.

IChild holding Lucky Moneyt is said that in ancient times there was a demon called “evil spirit”. He loved to touch the heads of children on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Children touched by him were afraid to cry; then they developed a headache, followed by a fever, and eventually turned into fools. There was a couple who looked upon their young son as their treasured one. They put eight coins in a red wrap, and placed it below the child’s pillow casually on New Year’s Eve. When the “evil spirit” was about to touch the child’s head, the eight coins below the boy’s pillow sent out bright light which scared the “evil spirit” away. In fact, the eight coins were actually the eight immortals who had secretly assumed the shape of coins to protect the children. Gradually, giving “Lucky Money” to children became a custom on the Spring Festival.

Dragon and Lion DanceChinese Dragon during Lion Dance

 Dragon and lion dances are common during Chinese New Year. It is believed that the loud beats of the drum and the deafening sounds of the cymbals together with the face of the dragon or lion dancing aggressively can evict bad or evil spirits. Lion dances are also popular for opening of businesses in Hong Kong and many Chinese communities.

The Origin of the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese zodiac features 12 animals in the sequence of Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. There is a legend about the origin of Chinese 12 zodiac animals. A long time ago, people thought that it would be interesting and convenient to use animals to record the years, so they fixed a date for all the animals to come and volunteer. The first 12 animals would be chosen as the symbols of the year.
Chinese Zodiac Signs
The night before the competition, the rat lay awake on his bed, too excited to sleep. He decided that as he couldn’t sleep, he might as well get up and go right away.
The rat was surprised to see that the ox had also risen very early. The ox walked faster than the rat. The rat didn’t want the ox to be the first one, so he said to the ox, “Friend, you must be very tired! Shall I sing a song for you to help you relax?”

“Of course” the ox said.

“But I’m too small, you may not hear me. Can I ride on your neck and sing for you?” the rat said. The ox agreed his proposition. When they arrived at their destination, no one else had yet arrived. The ox thought that he was the first one, but the rat jumped down off the ox and ran ahead of him. So the rat became the first of the 12 animals.

The Personality of Horse People

Chinese Horse Zodiac Sign Each animal of the Chinese zodiac represents a different "personality". This year is the year of horse. People born in the year of horse are attractive, talkative, open-minded and independent. They hate petty rules. They like travel and explore new places.

Provided by: the Confucius Institute at Seneca College