2/2/14

Chinese New Year celebrations


Lunar New Year (between 19 January and 20 February)

The Chinese New Year for 2014 is on January 31 and marks the start of the Year of the Horse.

Chinese New Year is celebrated worldwide – where there’s a Chinatown there’s invariably a Chinese New Year party – but there’s something special about being in one of China’s major cities for the the high point of the Chinese year. Its also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year and celebrations can last for about 15 days.

According to historical documents, on the day when Shun, who was one of ancient China’s mythological emperors, came to the throne more than 4000 years ago, he led his ministers to worship heaven and earth. From then on, that day was regarded as the first day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar. This is the basic origin of Chinese New Year. China adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1911, so Chinese New Year was renamed the Spring Festival.

You can expect colourful decorations but not a whole lot of public merrymaking; for the most part, this is a family festival.

Many people clean their homes to welcome the Spring Festival. They put up the red posters with poetic verses on it to their doors, Chinese New Year pictures on their walls, and decorate their homes with red lanterns.The red posters with poetic verses on it were initially a type of amulet, but now it simply means good fortune and joy. It is also a time to reunite with relatives so many people visit their families at this time of the year.

In the evening of the Spring Festival Eve, many people set off fireworks and firecrackers, hoping to cast away any bad luck and bring forth good luck. Children often receive “luck” money. Many people wear new clothes and send Chinese New Year greetings to each other. Various activities such as beating drums and striking gongs, as well as dragon and lion dances, are all part of the Spring Festival festivities.
Various Chinese New Year symbols express different meanings. For example, an image of a fish symbolizes “having more than one needs every year”. A firecracker symbolizes “good luck in the coming year”. The festival lanterns symbolize “pursuing the bright and the beautiful”.
Throughout the country, the weeks in the build-up to the festival are an explosion of colour, with chūnlián (spring couplets) pasted on door posts, door gods brightening up alleys and streets, and shops glistening with red and gold decorations. Work colleagues and relatives present each other with red envelopes of money and the streets ring with cries of ‘congratulations, make money’.

In Beijing, the White Cloud Temple, the Lama Temple and other temples stage entertaining miàohuì (temple fairs). Celebrations are also held in parks such as Ditan Park. At night the city echoes to the sound of continuous fireworks. Beijing’s major sights are clustered around the huge concrete block of Tiananmen Sq, while sections of the Great Wall of China are within day-trip range of the city.

In Shanghai there’s an explosion of fireworks at midnight to welcome in the New Year and ward off bad spirits, and special services are held at Longhua Temple and Jing’an Temple. Top restaurants are booked out well in advance for niányèfàn (New Year’s Eve dinner). Another explosion of firecrackers on the fifth day of the New Year heralds the arrival of the God of Wealth. Cosmopolitan Shanghai has fast become an eastern Milan, and shoppers will feel right at home on 5km-long Nanjing Rd.

In Hong Kong there’s a parade on the first day of the New Year, a fantastic fireworks display over Victoria Harbour on the second evening, and one of the year’s largest horse races is held at Sha Tin on day three. In mainland China the New Year holiday extends for seven days, and legions of Chinese use it to head to the provinces to visit relatives – this can be a very difficult time to try to travel around China. In Hong Kong it’s a three-day holiday. Take in the best Hong Kong vista from atop 552m Victoria Peak, with views across Kowloon, the business district and Victoria Harbour.

London's Chinese New Year celebrations are the largest outside Asia. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people descend on the West End to wish each other "Kung Hei Fat Choi" (or Happy New Year). This year's Chinese New Year festivities take place on Sunday 2 February in central London, taking in Trafalgar Square, Chinatown and Shaftesbury Avenue.
The event will start with a parade along Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue starting at around 10am. The main stage in Trafalgar Square will feature visiting artists from China. There will also be lion teams circulating around Chinatown, local artists performing on a stage at the end of Dean Street and traditional food and craft stalls.
There are plenty of activities and celebrations to get involved in. Why not pay a visit to London's Chinatown which is famous for its abundance of Chinese restaurants.

Important:

This is China’s biggest holiday and all transport and hotels are booked solid. Demand for accommodation skyrockets and prices rise steeply. Many businesses shut up shop for a week.
The Spring Festival is a national holiday in China. Government offices, schools, universities and many companies are closed during the period from the Spring Festival Eve to the seventh day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar. However, some enterprises such as banks often arrange for workers to be on shift duty. Public transport is available during the Chinese New Year period.



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