Chinese New Year: The Year of the Pig
Last month we celebrated New Year’s as stated in the Gregorian calendar which is based on a solar year. This month we are celebrating the Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Festival, which can fall anywhere from January 21st to February 20th. This is due to the Chinese calendar, as well as many other cultures’ calendars, that rely on the lunar calendar. The lunar calendar includes 13 months each with 28 days. When most of the world was using the Julian Calendar prior to 1752, New Year’s was celebrated on March 25th. The big change with the Gregorian calendar was the addition of a leap day and 11 days being dropped from the month of September. This year Chinese New Year occurs on Tuesday, February 5th.
In the Chinese belief system, the Spring Festival is a ceremonial day to pray to God for a good planting and harvest season. People also pray to their ancestors, as they are treated like gods. The tradition of fireworks came about to ward off monsters and bad luck. This is also part of the reason that the invention of fireworks came from Chinese territories. Due to concerns about air pollution many Chinese cities have banned fireworks and many more have restrictions on them also.
The Spring Festival is spread over 15 days and if you count New Year’s Eve when it starts it is 16 days. Traditionally it is family time and you’re not supposed to leave the house until January 5th. This is why many stores are closed during this time.
Some of the rituals of New Year’s Day in Chinese culture include not being allowed to shower on New Year’s Day or night and you’re not allowed to throw out garbage until the 5th of January. This is to make sure that you don’t wash/throw away any of the good luck that’s bestowed upon you. Akin to the garbage is the fact that it is taboo to cut hair, use scissors, say unlucky words and break things throughout the Spring Festival.
Some of the foods associated with New Year’s in the Chinese culture are dumplings. Dumplings should be eaten every day and every meal during the Spring Festival. This is more prominent in the northern parts of China, while in the south people eat spring rolls or eggrolls instead. One of the most intertwined foods for the New Year are desserts. One dish sounds very familiar to the Chinese word for reunion and that is eaten commonly, another is a rice cake that symbolize success and a hybrid sponge cake/muffin which the Chinese word for the dish means get rich. Wine is another component of the Chinese celebration.
The following are some foods associated with Chinese New Year. Eating fish is one of the most common foods eaten during the New Year celebration. The word fish in Chinese sounds like the word for surplus, and this is thought to bring about an increase in prosperity. Steamed fish is one of the most popular dishes and the type of fish you eat depends on what you were looking for in the upcoming year. Carp sounds like the word for “good luck,” so eating it is thought to bring good luck for the upcoming year. Catfish sounds like the word for “year’s surplus” so eating catfish might bring about surplus for the upcoming year. Eating two different fish, one on New Year’s Eve and one on New Year’s Day, sounds like the word for surplus year after year. Different regions have different traditions in regards to the position of the fish and how much fish should be eaten, and left over, to bring surplus in the future.
Chinese dumplings are another important component of the New Year’s diet. Chinese dumplings which were created more than 1800 years ago signify wealth. Different fillings for dumplings have different meanings. One year-round common filling is sauerkraut, but it is not eaten during the Spring Festival because it implies a poor and difficult future. A more common tradition is to eat cabbage and radish dumplings, which have a direct effect on the quality of one’s skin.
Spring rolls get their name because they are traditionally eaten during the Spring Festival. Glutinous rice cakes are thought to bring a higher income or position for the person eating them as the Chinese name for these cakes sounds like the word that means getting higher year by year. Another common food is sweet rice balls, where the pronunciation of the Chinese name is associated with reunion and being together. This helps with family togetherness. One of the common foods associated with the New Year is longevity noodles, which are longer than normal noodles and symbolize a wish for longevity.
There are many fruits that are eaten during the Chinese New Year. Most of them are round and golden in color which symbolizes fullness and wealth. Tangerines and oranges are believed to bring good luck and fortune.