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Chinese Culture >> Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, Year of the Pig

By: Pavika WIlson

The Chinese Lunar Calendar follows the lunar year where the years are arranged in major cycles of 60 years, and the 12 year cycles (each with a different animal) are repeated. This year is the Year of the Pig (or Boar). Those born in 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, and of course 2007 are born under the sign of the pig. According to legend, Buddha asked animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve animals came – the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Sheep, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog, and the Pig. So he named each year after them claiming that a person born under that year would have similar characteristics to the animal. Persons born under the Year of the Pig work very hard, have excellent manners, are loyal friends and enjoy luxuries.

February 18, 2007 is the first day of a 15 day Chinese New Year celebration. Because it is the most important holiday in China, people take weeks of holiday time from work to prepare for and celebrate the New Year. A lot of effort and preparation goes into making the New Year celebration festive. Superstition and tradition play a great role in the celebration. Red is the favorite color amongst Chinese people. Red symbolizes fire which legend says drives away evil spirits and bad luck. People dress in red, decorate with red and children are even given red envelopes of “lucky” money. Fireworks light up the night sky and tradition say it is to help ward away evil spirits. Live blooming plants represent rebirth and new growth. Mounds of oranges and tangerines are typically given as gifts when visiting family during the two week celebration.

Of course there would be no celebration without a wonderful banquet. Traditionally families gather together to share large meals throughout the Chinese New Year celebration. But the biggest feast is usually held on New Year’s Eve. Not only is the banquet shared by family as a sign of respect, the feast is also prepared for deceased family ancestors. The foods that are eaten signify different aspects of life and must be consumed to attain the meaning. Lotus seed signifies male offspring, Ginkgo nut represents silver, dried bean curd and Black seaweed -wealth and happiness, Bamboo shoots translates to “wishing that everything be well”. Whole fish is served representing togetherness and abundance and chicken for prosperity. Everything should be whole and uncut representing togetherness. The most important Chinese New Year food is uncut long noodles representing long life. The tremendous amount of food represents abundance and wealth.

Chinese New Year would not be complete without the lantern festival which usually marks the ending of the festivities. Lanterns are hung in temples, and are carried in the evening to a parade. Many lanterns are beautifully hand painted with nature themed designs or scenes from history. Usually a dragon dance will take place where a large number of people hold up a dragon made of paper or silk that could stretch as long as a hundred feet through the streets.

Chinese New Year is not only celebrated in China but is also celebrated in the United States. Asian communities in San Francisco and New York have parades, banquets, and firework shows to celebrate as they do in China. Families also gather to have elaborate feasts, pay respect to their ancestors and ring in the New Year with good fortune.

Pavika Wilson writes for NCE. An online party store featuring Chinese New Year Decorations and Valentine's Day Decorations for holiday parties and celebrations