It’s ‘Happy New Year’ in China

The Chinese New Year will be ushered in today, beginning of the Year of the Horse in the Chinese zodiac, which as CLIFF MBOYA notes, will be marked with week-long festivities

Spring Festival is the grandest and most exciting festival for the Chinese, containing a long history of rich and cultural connotations. During this period, Chinese people embark on the world’s biggest annual migration.

More than 250 million Chinese people board buses and trains to go and celebrate with their families. The sight of passenger transportation in China is remarkable as the people are determined to get together with their families in what has come to be referred as the great annual migration.

The festival symbolises the breaking of a new dawn on the first morning of the New Year. As Christmas is to Westerners, so is the spring festival to the Chinese.

In its history spanning more than 2,000 years, the splendour and exquisiteness of Chinese New Year celebrations prevails where expositions of Chinese customs and traditions are displayed. And just like Christmas, it is a time for family reunion, blessings and cheerful moments, the grandest of all Chinese festivals.

They usher in the New Year with pomp, colour and embellishing of sparkling rooms featuring an atmosphere of rejoicing and festivity.  Door panels will be pasted with Spring Festival couplets, highlighting Chinese calligraphy, with black characters on red paper.

The night before the New Year has obtained the name “reunion night”. The reunion dinner is of utmost importance as a time to reconnect with family and is a great reminder of the importance of family and tradition.

As the night wears on, hallowed family members remember their ancestors and food and flowers are usually laid out in order to honour those who came before.

Nationwide tradition

On the stroke of midnight, lively rounds of mahjong (traditional Chinese game), dice or dominoes are played as families watch the New Year gala on TV, a nationwide tradition in recent times. The air fills with the thunderous noise of firecrackers exploding and lighting up the night sky.

Each family lights firecrackers, bidding farewell to the old and welcoming the new, expecting an unusually lucky year. It is especially lucky for one to set off more fireworks than others, as it is indicative of a sincere spirit. Many courtyards are brightly lit.

Commonly referred to as the spring festival, the grand festival will last a week from January 31 to February 6 where the Year of the Snake will make way for the Year of the Horse. Spring Festival marks the first day of the first lunar month of the Chinese lunar calendar. It usually falls somewhere between the end of January and early February.

The Chinese lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon and every 12 years of the lunar cycle are named after 12 animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and boar.

Chinese people born in 12-year cycles share the same animal signs. For example, those born in 2002 and 2014 are all under the sign of the horse. Keeping with the ancient traditions and beliefs, the people born in the Year of the Horse are believed to share certain characteristics that relate to the horse.

Highly animated people

The horse is not only a symbol of travel, but also a sign of speedy success. People born in this year are believed to be highly animated, active and energetic. They are typically very elegant, independent, gentle, and hardworking.  The only variation, therefore, between the Chinese lunar New Year and the Gregorian New Year is the date.

Otherwise, the common overriding theme is thanksgiving and celebrations. Just as the rest of the world celebrated their New Year in early January, it is time for the Chinese people to usher in the New Year with greater hope and enthusiasm.