Chinese New Year: Year of the Sheep

The Year of the Sheep will see the usual billions of fireworks set off to celebrate its arrival and as the New Year’s dawn arises, a thin haze of smoke will still remain in the streets as if there were a war the night before. This February 19th, 2015 is the Chinese New Year day and New Year’s Eve is all about family, food and fireworks!! If you currently live in China and have never experienced a Chinese New Year, you are in for one enormous treat so grab some earplugs and a camera and leave your Shanghai apartment and enjoy one of the biggest fireworks festivities you will ever see in your life.

Chinese New Year has some of the same traditions as Western New Year, just without the obligatory countdown. Most Chinese stay up all night with their family, eat loads of traditional dishes, play cards and watch popular variety styled TV shows.  Many choose to set off fireworks and firecrackers throughout the day and evening so if you live in a crowded area don’t plan on sleeping.  If you do want to get some shut eye make sure you fill your ears with a good set of plugs as the sound of firecrackers will be heard all night long and days and nights after. This holiday period is traditionally a 15 day event however the time off work is usually 3 to 7 days.

History

There is a story behind Chinese New Year, the legend says a wild demon named nian or (year) would come at the end of every year to terrorize the local villagers. The legend says that the villagers were able to scare off the demon by using loud noises and bright lights such as fire crackers.

New Years Eve Dinner

This is the most important meal of the year. Chinese New Year’s Eve is on January 18th. This is the holiday where everyone returns to their hometowns to have a dinner. This year is the Year of the Sheep, if you were born in the year of the Sheep you are supposed to wear all Red on this day including underwear. In Northern China, the two main dishes are fish and dumplings. The family traditionally sits together and watches TV while making dumplings. A coin is sometimes hidden in a dumpling; whoever gets the dumpling is believed to have good luck for the upcoming year. They eat fish because there is a Chinese idiom that says 年年有余 which means to have more money than you need. Fish or 鱼 and 余 have the same pronunciation. Others choose to eat noodles because the noodle is a symbol of longevity in some parts of China. At midnight the fireworks begin, the first person in the Family to set off a firework is believed to have good fortune for the year. The other belief is that setting off fireworks wards off the evil spirit. Another tradition of Chinese New year’s is to stay up all night, because of this tradition plan on hearing fireworks for the remaining of the night.

Money

Chinese Families during this time also give the younger generation red envelops or 红包 “hongbao” filled with cash. The amount of cash ranges from a few hundred to tens of thousands depending on the families economic situation. These envelopes are usually given by adults to children. Younger generations are not expected to give money to their parents and older relatives until they are married.

Decorations

Before New Year’s Chinese families will do a complete clean of their apartments. They do this to get rid of the old and welcome the new. After they finish cleaning their apartments, they put up an assortment of decorations. These decorations are always red, since red is a sign of good luck. Some of these decorations include paper cuttings, the Chinese character 福 “fu” displayed upside down and wall hangings. They put the Chinese symbol 福 upside down because the word for upside down is 倒 “dao” and it has the same sound as the word to arrive. 福 meaning is happiness, and good luck. Thus they believe that putting the symbol upside down will bring good luck and happiness. You might also want to put one on your Apartment’s door. Who knows it might bring you luck.

Unlike Westerners, the day of Chinese New Year’s and the entirety of the 15 day festival when greeting people you are expected to say Happy New Years.

The First Few Days of the New Year’s the majority of shops are closed, outside looks more like a ghost town. Do not expect on catching a taxi for a few days, they will also be taking these days off.

Taboos

Most of the traditional superstitions involved with New Year’s are not widely followed however they are worth mentioning.

  • Using scissors or knives on New Year’s Day would cut off good fortune
  • New Year’s day do not wash your hair, washing you hair signifies washing away good luck
  • If you cry on New Year’s Day you will cry the rest of the year
  • Your appearance on New Year’s Day sets the tone for the rest of the Year
  • All debts should be paid on New Year’s Day, and nothing should be lent
  • Sweeping on New Year’s Day signifies sweeping away good fortune
  • It is considered unlucky to greet anyone in their bedroom
  • No foul language should be used on New Year’s Day, and refrain from using the number 4 since it Chinese it sounds like “to die”
  • Consuming meat or slaughtering animals on New Year’s Day is considered bad luck
  • Preparing food on New Year’s Eve for the upcoming days signifies that you had abundant wealth that is brought over from the previous year

Days Following

After Chinese New Year’s eve the family will not throw away their trash until the second day of the New Year. If you throw away your trash it is believed that you are throwing away your households money.

The first five days of Chinese New Year families go from one relative’s house to another eating dinner.

In traditional China on the 7th day of New Years everyone was considered a year older instead of by their individual birthdays. This tradition is less practiced now since of growing importance of individualization. However some still do follow this tradition.

The 15th day of Spring Festival is also known as Lantern Festival and is a day where Lion Dances can be seen, along with some of the most fascinating lanterns. Kids walk down the streets and pull a rabbit shaped lantern down the street. This day is traditionally a Full moon making it the perfect skyline for lanterns. It is also the second noisiest night of the year when fireworks are once again let off to mark the end of the holiday season.

Adrienne Farrelly is one of Shanghai’s most experienced expatriate Property Agents helping expats find new homes since 1994. You can reach her at  +86 13122 810 421 or manager@shanghaiprops.com. Connect with her on Skype at shanghaiproperties8. Shanghai Properties

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