Happy Chinese New Year!  新年快樂 (Xīn nián kuài lè)! :D

The Chinese New Year, probably more correctly the Lunar New Year, is celebrated by many Asian countries (countries that used to, or perhaps still do, use the Lunar calendar).  The day of celebration for Chinese New Year varies from solar year to solar year, because the lunar and solar calendars don’t exactly match up.  For 2011, the first day of the Chinese New Year fell on February 3.

Of course, Asians love to celebrate (I think, anyways), so it should be no surprise that, unlike the western New Year (from the solar calendar), the celebrations for Chinese New Year can last for two weeks.  In addition to that, I think in some countries, employees get the whole time off to celebrate.  (Why don’t we have that here XD?)  I’ve heard that the longest and most elaborate celebration occurs in Taipei, Taiwan, since Taiwanese culture still retains many of the old Chinese traditions.  (What we typically refer to as the country of China, from what I’ve heard, has a more current view, and so I think that their celebrations may not be as big.)  I’m not really sure on that, though; I’ve never been to any Asian country’s celebrations.

Anyways, Wikipedia knows more than me about all the details >__<;

There are a few traditions that I know of during Chinese New Year:

(1) Lion Dance. Several dancers don a long, elaborate “lion” costume and perform dances to Chinese music and drums.  That’s a terrible description, but XD;

(2) Rice cake and fish. Each year, you are supposed to eat rice cake and fish as part of the celebrations.  This comes from the Chinese saying 年年有鱼 (nian nian you yu), which means something like “abundant/prosperous year.”  This site has a pretty good explanation (and a pretty picture).  Basically, “nian” in Chinese means “year,” but is a homophone for the Chinese word “sticky.”  In Chinese, rice cake is called “nian gao” (“sticky cake”), so we eat rice cake.  “Yu,” which I think means abundant, sounds like the Chinese word for “fish,” so we eat fish also.  Kinda nifty, huh?  I think so, anyways ^ ^  Other traditional meals are dumplings and hot pot.

Fishy-shaped rice cakes I made.  You get both luckies in one :3

(3) Red envelopes. Chinese families also give out “hong bao,” or red envelopes, with money inside.  This is usually given from older generations to younger, so basically kids get a lot of money XP  BUT the catch is, the kids are supposed to do a special bow (it’s called “kuh to” or something, but my pinyin is awful so I can’t find out proper name for it) to their elders and wish them a happy new year.  A similar bow exists in the Korean culture, also.  (See the red envelopes in the picture above, in the bottom right corner.)

You can also say 恭喜發財 (gōng xǐ fā cái), which means “congratulations and be prosperous.”  I guess we’re congratulating each other on surviving the previous year and wishing that the new year will be prosperous?

A funny saying that comes off of this is [恭喜發財,紅包拿來!] (“gōng xǐ fā cái, hóng bāo ná lái!”), which means “Congratulations and be prosperous, now give me a red envelope!”  Usually kids will say this… jokingly.  Well, sort of.  XD

Also unlike western New Year, the Chinese New Year ushers in a special year for those whose zodiac sign aligns with the current year.  The Chinese zodiac consists of 12 animals, and each year is one animal’s year.  Anyone who is born in that animal’s year is then referred to as that animal.  A little confusing, so let me illustrate with this year’s animal.

This year is the Year of the Rabbit.  Anyone born in this year will be considered a rabbit, and for anyone who was born in a previous year of the rabbit (a multiple of 12 years ago, so 1999 was the previous one, 1987 before that… etc), this is considered their special year.  So congratulations, rabbits, it’s your lucky year! :)  I hope it is a wonderful year for you.


年 年 有 鱼