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Celebrating… Chinese New Year
Celebrating… Chinese New Year

Celebrated by around 1.6 billion people across the world each year, Chinese New Year is one of the most electric, exhilarating annual festivals on Earth. It is a time when Chinese families come together and enjoy spending time with one another, exchanging gifts, feasting, and having a well-earned moment of relaxation.

Interesting, vibrant and warming, Chinese New Year and the accompanying Spring Festival together make up one the world's most exciting festive periods, and for good reason. Taking place on the 8th of February, what can visitors to China expect from the ancient nation's most famous celebration?

A legendary festival

According to Chinese myth, the New Year celebrations were first celebrated during the legendary period of the country's history, when wise and grandiose figures such as the Emperors Yao and Shun purportedly brought together the many tribes and villages that existed along the Yellow River into a single nation. A celebration of spring, the festival was deemed to take place on the second new moon after the winter solstice, and continued for fifteen days while the moon was at its brightest.

The origins of the celebration are shrouded in history. Legend tells of a village that was be blighted at the start of every New Year by a beast known as Nian (年) – a word that translates as "year". The mythical creature, assuming the appearance of an ox with the head of a lion, was only defeated when the villagers took the counsel of a wise man. He instructed them to make loud noises using drums and fireworks, and to display the colour red – which Nian despised – outside their homes, and the beast was cast away. These mythical traditions have continued for many years, linking modern China with the ancient.

Many traditions

Chinese New Year is celebrated in a wide variety of ways. Before any of the celebrations happen, the Chunyun period occurs, and masses of people brave incredible crowds to spend time with their families back home. Houses are cleaned in preparation for the festivities, an activity that also symbolises the ridding of bad spirits from the home.

On New Year's Eve, the newly-reunited family enjoys a meal together that typically consists of spring rolls, long noodles, uncut mustard greens, dumplings, and a whole chicken or fish. Desserts include sweet rice balls, turnip cake and rice cake. A celebration of the passing of winter, the festival likely marked the start of a new growing season, serving as a thanksgiving event in the long-agricultural nation, a key reason why food is so prominent.

Whole, un-butchered and uncut foods are served as they symbolise family unity and longevity, while foods such as spring rolls and dumplings are eaten since they represent gold bars and ingots – powerful symbols of wealth at a time when both prosperity and a hopefulness regarding the coming year are celebrated.

During the passing of the New Year, the skies across China are lit up by millions of fireworks and the air is thick with the sound of firecrackers, driving away evil and welcoming the New Year. In the days that follow, red packets filled with money are given to children to keep them healthy, happy, and rid of evil, and people go out of their way to meet old friends and extended family members in nearby towns and villages.

Chinese New Year is a perfect time to explore and enjoy a taste of the country's quintessential cultural qualities and traditions. Whether you are staying in vibrant Huizhou, beautiful Guiyang, or the ancient capital of Xi'an, you are sure to celebrate the New Year in an explosion of colour and light!

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