Zhōng Guó Xīn Nián

Chinese New Year 2021
By Maria Liang

This year Chinese New Year falls on February 12 and is the Year of the Ox according to Chinese zodiac. Its other name is 뉴節 Chūn Jié (Spring Festival), and it is the most important traditional festival celebrated in China and regions of Chinese and Han communities around the world. Generally the event begins on the first day of the first Chinese lunar month and lasts 15 days until 禱晷節 Yuán Xiāo Jié  (Lantern Festival). 

櫓國劤쾨 Zhōng Guó Xīn Nián  (The Legend of the Chinese New Year)
The rich and colorful legends about the origin of Chinese New Year can be traced back thousands of years. The most famous and popular one is the legend of the 쾨獸 Nián Shòu (Nian beast)a cruel and ferocious monster that ancient people believed would come out to eat people and livestock on 뇜坵 Chú Xì (New Year’s Eve). Legend has it that the Nian is extremely afraid of red, fire and the sound of explosion.

To ward off the beast, people put red paper scrolls on the sides and top of their door frames, lit torches all night and set off firecrackers. Early the next morning, people shared endless 묜毆 Gōng Xǐ  (congratulations), and the air was filled with the joy of victory of defeating the Nian.

Most people celebrate the New Year starting on New Year’s Eve. Family members will gather before New Year’s Eve so that they can have a reunion dinner with their families. At this time, the elderly and children will be given red envelopes full of money. Usually the whole family stays awake, and the lights shine all night. At midnight, households set off long strings of firecrackers to welcome the new year.

Food plays a very important role during the Spring Festival. Not only is the food deluxe and tasty, but it also represents prayers for blessings and good omens. For example, 魚 Yú (fish) is an essential dish because it symbolizes 쾨쾨唐餘 Nián Nián yǒu Yú  (surplus) every year for the household. The fish is either not eaten at all or only tasted slightly to ensure that the family will have enough surplus in the coming year. 흄圓 Ròu Yuán (meatballs) stand for 團圓 Tuán Yuán (reunion). 쾨멤 Nián Gāo, a kind of cake made from glutinous rice, symbolizes 쾨쾨멕  Nián Nián Gāo Shēng  (common greeting for promotion and prosperity). Dumplings are shaped like 쏜禱寶 Jīn Yuán Bǎo  (gold ingots), and eating them symbolizes accumulating wealth for the coming year.

禱晷節 Yuán Xiāo Jié / 燈節 Dēng Jié
(The Lantern Festival)
Celebrated on the 15th of the first lunar month of each year, the lantern festival is the last day of the traditional Chinese New Year activities. This day is the first full moon of the Lunar New Year and symbolizes the arrival of spring. The Chinese traditionally celebrate by eating 禱晷 Yuán Xiāo  /湯圓 Tāng Yuán (glutinous rice balls), hanging and viewing beautiful lanterns, and solving 꼲燈謎 Cāi Dēng Mí (riddles) hung from the lanterns. Because Tāng Yuán is a homophone with the word for “union,” eating these symbolizes family cohesion, and their round shape is like a full moon and embodies people’s good wishes for future life.

Today, many Chinese still like to celebrate by wearing red clothes, exchanging good wishes and giving red envelopes. The development of technology has changed the celebration of the Spring Festival. Now people wish 묜毆 Gōng Xǐ  劤쾨우樂 Xīn Nián Kuài Lè  (Happy New Year) to their relatives and friends by phone and send electronic red envelopes.

The celebrations this year will see some changes because of the pandemic. Big family dinners will be more difficult, so greetings may happen more by phone and video calls. But the spirit of joy and family togetherness will remain at the heart of the holiday.