A complete guide to Lunar New Year celebration from 2022: Here's how the Chinese New Year or Spring festival is celebrated

The celebrations last more than two weeks — from New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month

Liu ChangUpdated: Saturday, January 21, 2023, 02:13 PM IST
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Falling on February 1, the Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Festival, marks the beginning of a new year on the Chinese lunar calendar. Before the festival, people clean their homes in hopes of sweeping away bad luck and preparing to welcome good luck in the coming year. Red lanterns are hung on the streets and red couplets are pasted on doors — red is considered an auspicious colour in China.

The celebrations last more than two weeks — from New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Each day of the 16-day-long celebration has a name with an assigned purpose or meaning.

On New Year’s Eve, several generations of a family get together to enjoy 'reunion dinners' and stay up until midnight to count down to the New Year. Food is an integral part of 'reunion dinners', with fish being a must because it sounds like 'surplus' in Chinese and symbolises abundance. Dumplings shaped like Chinese silver ingots are served as a sign of family unity and prosperity. People also eat niangao (glutinous rice cakes) with wishes for higher income or a promotion because it sounds like 'year high' in Chinese.

Customer chooses from an array of Spring Festival couplets to prepare for the Chinese New Year

Customer chooses from an array of Spring Festival couplets to prepare for the Chinese New Year | Photo: Dong Fang/China Pictorial

Common practices for New Year’s day include visiting ancestors’ graves, meeting relatives and offering gifts. Red envelopes, called lai see in Cantonese, are the most sought-after gifts for children, and seniors are often gifted cash with wishes for another safe and peaceful year.

February 3 marks the Day of the Rat when people often stay at home with family and rest or pass time by playing games. On the Day of Mankind, which falls on February 7, people often spend the day outside connecting with nature, because it was the day that humankind was created according to Chinese mythology.

The Lantern Festival brings the conclusion of the New Year celebration — on this day lanterns are lit and hung or flown into the sky, people watch dragon dances on the streets, children answer lantern riddles, among other activities.

Tiger, third among the 12 zodiac animals

The Chinese zodiac features 12 animals, each of which is linked to certain characteristics and elements, and they rotate every year — 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. But, one question that comes to mind is why does the Tiger, the king of beasts, occupy the third position in the Chinese zodiac?

Legend has it, the Tiger was confident in its speed and vigour for the celestial race that would decide the order of the zodiac animals. However, when it climbed out of the river, it was informed that the Rat placed first with its cunningness and the Ox second due to its diligence. This left the king of the jungle with third place.

Since the Tiger is a symbol of strength and bravery, people hang its pictures at home for the Year of the Tiger, believing they will help protect the house and the family. Parents dress their young children in shoes and hats with tiger-head patterns in hopes to protect them from evil spirits and keeping them in good health.

The National Fitness and Happy Ice and Snow Season 2022 kicks off at the Shichahai ice rink in Beijing’s Xicheng District

The National Fitness and Happy Ice and Snow Season 2022 kicks off at the Shichahai ice rink in Beijing’s Xicheng District | Ma Gengping/China Pictorial

Like their zodiac animal, people born in the years of the Tiger are believed to be 'vigorous and ambitious, daring and courageous, enthusiastic and generous, and self-confident with a sense of justice and commitment to helping others for the greater good'. Eminent tiger personalities include Queen Elizabeth II (born on April 21, 1926), Hollywood superstar Leonardo DiCaprio (born on November 11, 1974), Indian tennis player Sania Mirza (born on November 15, 1986) and Canadian singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes (born on August 8, 1998), to name a few.

The 12 zodiac animals in order are the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Everyone can figure out their Chinese zodiac animal!

The National Fitness and Happy Ice and Snow Season 2022 kicks off at the Shichahai ice rink in Beijing’s Xicheng District

The National Fitness and Happy Ice and Snow Season 2022 kicks off at the Shichahai ice rink in Beijing’s Xicheng District | Ma Gengping/China Pictorial

A 'stay local' holiday

Chinese New Year is meant to be spent with family and friends, but the pandemic forces some to spend it away from family. But people can still enjoy the festival via an array of arrangements like exhibitions, lantern shows and online cultural strolls.

For example, a tiger-themed exhibition, titled 'The Tiger as Talisman: 2022 Chinese New Year', featuring artworks with tiger patterns, has opened to the public at the Beijing-based National Museum of China. The exhibits date from the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 B.C.) to the beginning of the 21st century. In Shanghai, a lantern show featuring an array of traditional folk lanterns and art installations has also kicked off in Yuyuan Garden to welcome the upcoming Chinese New Year. The main attraction is a nine-meter-tall tiger standing in the central plaza of Yuyuan Garden Malls, surrounded by several smaller tigers, some wearing spacesuits to celebrate the country’s progress in space exploration.

Also, the Palace Museum in Beijing will soon introduce a special online page to welcome the Spring Festival, which showcases dozens of tiger-themed cultural relics. During the Spring Festival, the digital cultural relics library on the website will release 15,000 new images of cultural relics, increasing the number of the total images available to 83,000.

Knotted to the Beijing Winter Olympics

What further distinguishes the Year of the Tiger is its marriage with the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games scheduled to commence on February 4, the fifth day of the Spring Festival holiday.

A 17-meter-high Olympics-themed decoration shaped like a Chinese knot is placed at Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square to welcome the Spring Festival holiday and the Beijing Winter Olympics.

A 17-meter-high Olympics-themed decoration shaped like a Chinese knot is placed at Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square to welcome the Spring Festival holiday and the Beijing Winter Olympics. | Wan Quan/China Pictorial

To ensure a festive and peaceful atmosphere for the Spring Festival holiday and welcome the Beijing Winter Olympics, a 17-meter-high Olympics-themed decoration shaped like a Chinese knot was set up at Tian’anmen Square in Beijing. The road to the Capital Indoor Stadium, the venue for short track speed skating and figure skating during the Games, has been decorated with Winter Olympics elements such as pictures of the mascots―Bing Dwen Dwen and Shuey Rhon Rhon, as well as snowflakes, and other wintery icons. The mini programme, Digital Palace Museum, will offer a special online exhibition of ancient and modern winter sports, an interactive winter sports mini-game and other appropriate information for the public during the Spring Festival holiday.

(This content is provided by Beijing-based China-India Dialogue.)

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