Chinese New Year, as the name suggests, is celebrated in China to mark the first day of the New Year in Chinese calendar, which is different from the Gregorian calendar. It is also known as the Lunar New Year and celebrations generally last for about15 days.
This festival starts with the New Moon of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays.
Basically, it is celebrated in late January to early February (depending on the year). It is also known as the Spring Festival because it marks the end of the winter and the beginning of the spring season.
Moreover, it is the most important and longest of all Chinese festivals, celebrated in Chinese communities worldwide. During this festival, people making offerings to household deities and wear new clothes, particularly in red.
As every other festival, it hosts a large banquet for family and friends. Apart from this people take part in lion and dragon dances, as well as festive parades.Many children receive lucky money in red envelopes and household doors are open to let good luck enter on Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year may also include a lantern festival, where people hang decorated lanterns in temples and carry lanterns to an evening parade.
SIGNIFICANCE OF CHINESE NEW YEAR
The beginning of Chinese New Year started all with fear. Though the legends vary from teller to the teller but the most prevalent story is about a horrible beast called the Nian. According to the mythology, the beast always came on the first day of New Year to food and people, especially children. In order to protect themselves, people with a sense of fear, used to put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year as it was believed that after the Nian would eat the food they prepared, it would not attack any more people.
Somehow, One day people observed that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. This made the people aware about the weakness of the beast. Then they understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. So, when the New Year was about to come, people would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors.
The stories also introduce a wise old man who counseled the people to scare off the evil Nian by making loud noises with drums and firecrackers. Thus, Nian never returned again.
DRAGON DANCE-A PART OF CHINESE NEW YEAR
The Dragon Dance originated in China during the Han Dynasty(180-230AD) and now it is a very important part of the Chinese New Year celebration. Generally, It is believed that the dragon represents good luck, nobility, and fortune and they drives out evil.
The dragon mask and body used for the dance may be gold, green or fire-red and every color has its own significance. Green symbolizes great harvest; yellow symbolizes the solemn empire, gold or silver symbolizes prosperity and red represent excitement. The length of the dragon generally varies from 9 to 24 sections long, with each section measuring from about 5 to 6.5 feet.
The Dragon Dance can be performed in the daytime or at night, if it is performed at night it is usually preceded by someone carrying a blazing torch to illuminate, making the whole performance even more enchanting.
The dragon dance is performed by a skilled team of performers whose job is to bring the motionless body to life. Performers create intricate dragon dances with one performer manipulating the head of the dragon and the rest manipulating the body. The correct combination and proper timing of the different parts of the dragon are very important for a successful dance. The dragon moves in a wave-like pattern achieved by the coordinated swinging of each section in succession.
LANTERN FESTIVAL-END OF CHINESE NEW YEAR
The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year. It officially marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. The lanterns are generally always red to symbolize good fortune.
There are many different beliefs associated with the origin of the Lantern Festival. However, it is likely to have had something to do with celebrating and cultivating positive relationships between people, families, nature and the higher beings that were believed to be responsible for bringing or returning the light each year.
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