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On the occasion of Chinese New Year Day, here’s a look at some fascinating cultures and traditions related to the longest and most significant celebration in the Chinese calendar.
Did You Know?
• Sweeping and throwing out garbage is not allowed on Chinese New Year Day, apparently to ensure that any good luck is not swept or thrown away!
• Similarly, during Chinese New Year, noodles are not cut to signify a long life.
• According to legend, Buddha invited all the animals to meet him on New Year's Day and named a year after each of the 12 animals that came. That’s how the animals of the Chinese calendar came into being. It is also traditionally believed that people born in an animal's year have some of that animal's personality traits.
• The Ox is the second of the 12 animal zodiacs. Mythology has it that the order of the animals was decided by the order in which they arrived on New Year's Day. It is believed that the Ox would have been the first, but the Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride. When they arrived, the Rat jumped down and ran ahead of the Ox!
• An important aspect of the Chinese New Year is the chuen-hop, or ‘tray of togetherness’. This consists of eight compartments on a tray, filled with symbolic food items. The number eight is also considered to be good luck in Chinese culture.
• Children traditionally receive red envelopes (also called red pockets) with lucky money passed on by elders. These days, digital red pockets are all the rage, with people sending them through digital group chats where participants ‘fight’ for the money. This is called qiang hongbao (抢红包), which translates to ‘snatching red pockets’.
• During Lunar New Year’s Eve, it is believed that more fireworks are used than any other day in the year, anywhere else in the world. The earliest firecrackers were said to be exploding bamboo, because there was no gunpowder or paper back then. The firecrackers were made by placing bamboo in the fire, which then made a popping sound!
At the School of Culture, History & Language, we are always keen to hear from people of diverse backgrounds about their traditions, festivals and cultures. So do get in touch if you’d like to share any stories, fun facts and anecdotes about a tradition or culture you belong to or have experienced during your fieldwork! Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.