Side note: This post is 2 days past the start of Chinese New Year. Please forgive for my lateness.
What is Chinese New year?
Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is an Asian tradition that celebrates the start of a new year according to the Chinese calendar. It starts after the winter solstice on the second new moon and ends on a full moon 15 days after. It is the longest public holiday in China as it is seven consecutive days long, whereas in western culture the New Year is a 1 day holiday. Other than the difference in time and length of the holiday, Chinese New year is unique as each year is represented by one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. This year, 2015, is the year of the goat, the 8th animal in the Chinese zodiac. There is a small quarrel whether this year is actually a goat, sheep or ram because the Chinese character 羊 is an umbrella term for these animals.
How is it celebrated?
Before the Chinese New Year actually begins, several preparations have to be made. These preparations include chores because there is a superstition that cleaning on the New Year will bring misfortune. Other preparations include setting up red and gold decorations to bring luck and setting out fruits to appease Chinese gods and goddesses. The main idea by doing all of these is to start the new year fresh and full of luck.
Customs slightly vary on the actual starting day of Chinese New Year. Some people dress up in traditional clothing, visit Chinese temples, light firecrackers, give gift money in red envelopes, pray and honor ancestors, cook and eat traditional Chinese food and attend parades and festivals. Some people also go all out and have a huge family get together while some celebrate just with their household. Non-avid celebrators usually just stick to praying, the red envelope tradition and having a good meal, but not necessarily a traditional Chinese meal. The non-avid celebrators don’t go all out because of many reasons such as the modernization and of this tradition and the limitation of resources and time. Regardless, Chinese New Year has been celebrated for centuries and continues to spread globally.
How widespread is it?
Pretty much everyone knows the gist of Chinese New Year nowadays. Chinese culture is very widespread. In fact, many other nationalities celebrate Chinese New Year and even kids are exposed to and learn about unique cultural traditions at young ages. By letting children experience and learn about these traditions at a young age it will make them more accepting. Cultural diversity and acceptance are important because it helps rid of ignorance and discrimination and allows people to feel more comfortable with following their traditions. Although Chinese New Year is not a public holiday in Canada, many people are aware of it and still go out of their way to celebrate and rejoice.