Chinese New Year, better known as "Spring Festival", usually arrives in February, bringing with it the year of the new year lead by a new animal. The reason that the Chinese New Year is different from the Western New Year is because of a different calendar. The Chinese use what is known as an agricultural or lunar calendar, which is measured by the moon versus the solar calendar that we use in the West. The lunar calendar follows the moon very closely, every 15th day of the lunar calendar is the full moon and every first day is the new moon or crescent moon. Because of the difference in the lunar and solar calendar Spring Festival usually falls anywhere from the first part of January to the end of February.
Chinese New Year Song
Spring Festival is a fifteen-day event that begins with "Chu Yi", the first day of the New Year, and ends with "Yuan Xiao Jie", the Yuan Xiao Festival. Traditionally, at mid-night the night before the first day of the new year firecrackers are set off to scare off any bad karma that may be lurking, however today in most large cities where it is not permitted to set off firecrackers they may have public firework displays. There are different activities that take place throughout the 15 days with "chu yi", the first day of the new year, being the day to spend with family. Usually, the second through the fifth days are good days to visit close friends and bosses so as to wish them a prosperous new year and good tidings.
The last day or "Yuan Xiao Jie" is the day when everyone comes out together to celebrate, young and old alike are eager to get their share of Yuan Xiao, glutinous rice balls filled with sesame, peanut, red bean, and other flavored fillings. At night everyone takes to the streets and the children each toting a lantern lighting the way to parks and temples. Now, the New Year has been officially christened and the sixteenth day will bring everyone back to a normal schedule. The traditional celebration is 15 days, however recently in consideration of business needs, most people only get three days off for Spring Festival.
For Spring Festival every family will have a pair of red paper strips, about a yard long, with calligraphy written on them in black or gold ink, these "strips" will be put on either side of the main entry to the home. The strips are called "dui-lian" and have auspicious phrases and short poems of a prosperous new year written on them. In some places the dui-lian will be left until the next New Year or until they weather normally and fall off on their own.
Hong Bao, small red envelopes holding cash, are given to the children in goodwill and as a wish of prosperity. The amount given is not so important as it is to give. People usually give as much as they can, the gesture is what is important and will bring good karma to the giver.
The moon will be full on the 15th of this month and the Chinese say the moon is full on the 15th but actually rounder on the 16th. Why not check it out on the 16th and see what you think. Is it rounder?
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By Todd Cornell.