February 2, 2016

The Year of the Monkey

Submitted by Columbus International ProgramMonkey2016
Written by Jiyu Jia, Chinese Development Coordinator

While much of the world rang in the New Year on January 1st, China is getting ready to officially kick off 2016 on February 8th. The New Year is one of the most important holidays of the year in China, so CIPUSA's affiliate office, Columbus International Program, asked their Chinese Development Coordinator, Jiyu Jia, to tell us more about their unique tradition:

There is no fixed date for the Chinese New Year in the Christian calendar, although it is always in February or at the end of January.  We use our traditional calendar, which is called the Lunar calendar.  Since it is near the start of Spring, we actually call the new year in the Lunar calendar, “Spring Festival.”

Normally, we will celebrate the Chinese New Year for seven days.  The entire celebration begins with Chinese New Year Eve.  The whole family will get together and have the most sumptuous dinner of the year, enjoying local food that is traditionally prepared to celebratethe New Year.  After that, people spend the next 5 or 6 consecutive days visiting relatives and friends to celebrate and congratulate each other for entering the New Year.  This way of celebrating throughout the country has its origins in the Song Dynasty, circa 960 AD.  Before then, these traditions were popular with the Han people, but less so with other minorities.  Now, however, Chinese New Year is celebrated nationwide.

The importance of Chinese New Year for us is like Christmas for many Americans, but ours is not related with religion.  It absolutely has the sense of being the #1 holiday or festival for all of China.  However, since China is a big country like the U.S., different places (provinces) have their own sub-culture to celebrate New Year in their own way.  For example, in and around my hometown of Tianjin, we have dumplings as a main course after mid-night on New Year's Eve.  But far south, in places like Guangzhou or Fujian, people prefer a sticky rice cake, called New Year Cake, instead of dumplings.  Moreover, food is only one part of traditional cultural practices.  There are many regional differences in how the NewYear is celebrated.

Compared to other Chinese holidays, and to make an analogy with Western holidays, I often say that Chinese New Year is like Christmas, and Moon Festival is more like Thanksgiving. They are the first and second most important holidays, and in both cultures they are about the whole family getting together.

Did you know?  Monkey years are considered the most unlucky!  Learn more about Chinese New Year traditions, by clicking HERE.

Posted by Lindsey Walsh on February 2, 2016 at 3:49 PM in Holidays Permalink
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