Every Chinese New Year brings with it new meaning, as it closely follows Chinese astrology. This year is the Red Fire Monkey according to the Heavenly stem animal zodiac. Here’s what you need to know about the 2016 Chinese New Year.
First off, some quick basics – it’s also known as the Spring Festival because it is the literal translation of the modern Chinese name. 2016 brings about the 4,713rd year in the Chinese calendar (that’s right, it’s over four thousand years old), making it the most significant annual celebration for Chinese people.
The Chinese believe that there are 12 year animal zodiac cycle which influence the personality, fortune and overall lives of those born in each respective year. This is also accompanied by the five elements of nature (wood, fire, earth, metal and water). A “Fire Monkey” year occurs every 60 years, last appearing in 1956.
General Traits of the Red Fire Monkey
People born under both the fire and monkey sign are said to be motivated and go-getters, but with a slight temper. They tend to be very business savvy and value relationships, often succeeding through good community relations. They are also very popular among friends and their friends. They’re rarely content with their present state and tend to leave home to seek fortune elsewhere.
The Celebrations To-Do List
Traditions and practices are the same throughout all the signs, and are generally practiced in the same manner throughout. It is celebrated for about 16 days, from the Chinese New Year eve till the Lantern Festival which signifies the official end of celebrations. These days it’s a mix between traditional customs and newer practices.
Roughly one would start off a few days before the New Year’s eve with a thorough house cleaning and shopping. Decorations are put up for both symbolic and beautification purposes, mostly in red considering it plays a very heavy role in Chinese culture (representing good fortune, joy and warding off evil and calamity).
There would be a Reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve, considered to be the most important event of all. Family members from all over would come back and gather at the “central” house. Ang Pau (“lucky” money in red envelopes) would be given to unmarried people for both prosperity and blessings.
People usually stay up pretty late during this time. Besides spending the time to catch up with relatives and family members, they also light up fireworks at midnight. Fireworks are lit to both welcome in the new lunar year as well as to scare off the monster “Nian” who devours children and livestock.
Celebrations are filled with prayers, gatherings, visiting friends and family as well as various forms of merry making, lasting for two whole weeks and ending with the Lantern Festival.
The Do’s and Don’t to get a Good Year
The Chinese believe in a good start and that how it kicks off will resonate throughout the rest of the year. Naturally, there are plenty of superstitions and taboos surrounding this season. Some of the more common are…
- DO keep your rice jar filled.
- DO wear red clothing (and there’s a big deal on red underwear).
- DO keep even amounts of “Lucky” money.
- DO keep a child happy (a crying child is considered to attract bad luck).
- DO decorate (especially entrances) houses and and business establishments with red and gold New Year messages.
- DO NOT clean the house on the first two days.
- DO NOT wash your hair on the first day.
- DO NOT wear black.
- DO NOT eat porridge.
- DO NOT brew herbal medicine or take medicine.
The Lantern Festival
The Lantern Festival signals the end of the Chinese New Year festivities. On the evening of the 15th day, which is also a full moon, friends, family and all loved ones come together once more to light lanterns. These lanterns are used in several ways. Some are designed to float into the night sky, some are placed to drift away in rivers while some are put up as decorations at homes and on the streets.
They come in various shapes, colours, sizes and uses, many of which are vibrant and colourful. It’s also very common to see more fun and children-friendly versions for the kids to enjoy. Apart from ending the two-week celebration, it also means that all the many Do’s and Don’t are no longer in effect.