吉祥話 (jí xiáng hùa) also known as Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festival for the Chinese. This festival begins on the first day of the first month ( 正月: zhēng yuè ) in the lunisolar Chinese calendar and ends 15 days later. Some might be confused why Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year. This is because the Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-yearcycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year. Chinese New Year is mainly celebrated in countries with significant Han Chinese populations. For example, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand. Before celebrating the Chinese New Year festival, important preparations must be done. The preparation begins two weeks before the Chinese New Year. This includes days such as Birthday of the Land Deity (16th Day of the 12th Month), Sending of the Kitchen God (24th Day of the 12th Month), Chinese New Year Shopping (25th Day of the 12th Month until Chinese New Year Eve), Spring Cleaning (28th Day of the 12th Month) and Chinese New Year Eve (29th or 30th Day of the 12th Month). At the stroke of midnight, Chinese New Year is greeted by loud firecrackers signifying a new year. On this day several taboos must be followed. For example, family members cannot do any cleaning on this day as it is believed that cleaning clean away all the good luck. Windows and doors can be seen decorated with paper cuts and couplets with auspicious sayings such as ‘happiness’, ‘wealth’, ‘longevity’. Chinese New Year is all a new beginning and family unity. Hence, all grudges or debt are forgiven and paid off before this festival. The Chinese New Year festival continues until the 15th Day where it is known as ‘Lantern Festival’.
According to tales and legends, long ago, the world was dominated by monsters and every year a mystical beast called the Nien ( 年: nián ) would come out at night on the day before new year and devour people. This is where the word Nian which means ‘year’ in modern Chinese came about. It is also believed that this beast has a big mouth that can swallow many people with just one bite. This caused the people to be afraid. One day, an old man came to their rescue and told Nian that "I hear that you are very capable, but can you swallow the other beasts on earth instead of people who are by no means of your worthy opponents?" Hence, the beast preyed on other beasts on earth. Then one day the old man left riding the beast Nian . It turns out that the old man is an immortal god. After Nian was gone, the rest of the monsters soon seek refuge and hid in the forest. Before the old man left with Nian, he advised the people to hang red cloths at their doors and stick red papers on their doors and windows at every households to scare away the Nian in case the beast sneaked back again. This is because the Nian is afraid of the colour red. Other than that, the old man also advised them to light up firecrackers every night on that day to scare Nian because Nian is also scared of loud noises. Since then, every year the people continued the same ritual and the ritual have been carried on from generation to generation. The term ‘Guo Nian’ which signifies ‘Survive of Nian’ becomes today’s ‘Celebrate The New Year’.
Preparations Before Chinese New Year
Birthday of the Land Deity (16th Day of the 12th Month)
This is the day where Chinese worshippers will pray to the Land Deity, ‘FuDe Zheng Shen’ with offerings such as food and burns incense as offerings to the Deity. Chinese worshippers hope that the Land Deity will have a good say and...