Saturday, February 9, 2013

Chinese New Year: The Celebration (Part three of five)

As the Chinese New Year is quickly approaching, people across China are beginning the necessary steps in order to prepare their house for the New Year. Excitement vibrates throughout the country as the Chinese prepare to welcome the Year of the Water Snake on Sunday, February 10th. 

One of the most important preparations for the fifteen day holiday is to do a thorough house cleaning. The Chinese consider a clean home crucial for the start of the New Year, believing that through cleaning the house they sweep away any bad luck from the previous year. 

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The next step for preparing for the New Year is the fun part! Decorating! The legend of the origin of the Chinese New Year says that the monster that terrorized the villagers was deterred by the color red, so the tradition of painting doors and window panes red has continued to stay an important part of the New Year's preparation. Paper cut outs are also hung throughout the house, a very culturally significant tradition that extends all the way back to the Han dynasty

After these weeks of preparation for the holiday comes the celebration. Once the holiday has actually arrived, it is stressed to cease all cleaning of the house. It is thought that if you clean during the first few days of the New Year, you risk sweeping away the good luck that the New Year has brought. 

The New Year is an important holiday for families. It is a time for families to gather together and enjoy the company of one another. A traditional activity for families to participate in together is the preparing and cooking of Chinese dumplings, or Jiaozi. It is custom for many families to also hide a coin in one of the dumplings and whoever gets the dumpling with the coin in it is expected to have good luck in the upcoming year. 

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Giving out money packets to family members, especially children, is also custom. On the eve of the New Year, children will receive red packets decorated with gold symbols filled with money. These red packets are known as leisee

Festive and symbolic foods are served throughout the fifteen day period. The purpose of these very specific foods are to symbolize abundance and good fortune, something all Chinese people are trying to acquire in the coming year. These symbolic foods, such as lotus seeds and lychee nuts, are all gathered together on what is called a Tray of Togetherness. It is a circular shaped tray with eight compartments. These compartments are designed in a way so that they can be filled with all the special Chinese New Year foods in order to provide a delicious welcome into the New Year!

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