The Lunar New Year, also called the Spring Festival, is the most important traditional holiday in China. It is also celebrated in some other eastern Asian countries. It refers to the beginning of the new year based on the Chinese lunar calendar. The exact date of the Spring Festival in the Western calendar often lies in sometime between mid-January and mid-February. This year’s Spring Festival is on February 10th.
It is the time when all the family members get reunion and spend time together. Since the Chinese culture includes strong family ties, no matter where one works or studies during the year, getting back home in time for the Lunar New Year Eve is the biggest wish for every Chinese. Every year, the Spring Festival travel period is the peak season for public transportation. Getting a train or flight ticket during this period might be quite difficult. However, regardless of the hassle, everyone looks forward to seeing their families.
Traditionally speaking, Spring Festival festivities do not end until the 15th day of the New Year. There are often traditional foods served on each of these fifteen days. Although many families no longer strictly follow these traditions, almost all the family still prepare dumplings for the New Year day and eat rice balls (sticky rice flour filled with sweet stuffing) on the 15th day of the New Year. The 15th day of the New Year is also referred to as the Lantern Festival, as it is the first day of the year that one can observe the full moon.
This is my sixth year in the U.S. That is, I have not been able to celebrate this special holiday with my parents for several years. Besides missing the authentic Chinese food and nice conversations with family members, there are some special elements of this traditional holiday that seem even more special and precious to me nowadays.
Watching the New Year evening gala on TV with family members is a tradition during the festival. It is the most viewed TV show of the year, with viewership reaching more than 30% of households. The show usually starts at 8 pm on the New Year Eve and lasts until the countdown of the New Year. During the four-hour show, there are dances, songs, comedic skits, acrobatics, and a variety of other traditional performances.
Fireworks are also a traditional fixture at the Chinese New Year. When I was little, watching the fireworks during the New Year Even was the singular most exciting event. Since I lived in the city center of Beijing, I could see the splendored fireworks from Tian’An Men Square at home. Many families purchase and set off fireworks themselves as well. The sky is usually lit up with fireworks for a couple of hours around the midnight of the New Year.
Parents and grandparents also always remember to prepare the “red envelope” for their children or grandchildren. It is a tradition to put cash inside the red envelope and give it to the kids at the New Year day. There is a long story behind this tradition. Simply put, it carries a good wish for a peaceful and smooth new year.
All these memories of the Lunar New Year become more vivid to me at this special season. No matter whether you celebrate the Lunar New Year or not, I wish everyone a happy and peaceful year of 2013!