MONDAY, JANUARY 23: What marks a 100-year anniversary, makes Warren Buffet croon a tune and summons exhilarating images of dragons?
The Chinese New Year!
Today, China and Chinese communities around the world welcome the New Year with extravagant events, fireworks galore and a whole list of time-honored traditions. (Check out photos of this year’s early festivities, courtesy of The Telegraph.) One hundred years ago, China officially adopted the Western calendar, but that doesn’t mean its people don’t still welcome the Lunar New Year with as much pomp as ever. Billionaire investor and philanthropist Warren Buffet played the ukulele and sang a song on China’s state-run television network yesterday, wishing all of China a happy Chinese Lunar New Year (Read the story at CBC); Anthony Cheng, a Chinese astrologer, predicted the thrilling yet unpredictable Dragon Year to bring a scandalous corruption case in China and the resignations of several high-ranking officials in China and Hong Kong. (Get the scoop on this year’s news from The Telegraph.)
The 15 days of Chinese New Year festivities launch today, but preparations began weeks ago. On the eighth day of the lunar month prior to Chinese New Year, a traditional porridge is served at breakfast, with the first bowl offered to ancestors and household deities (family members are served afterward). As the days to New Year are counted down, households get cleaned until sparkling, as many believe a clean house on New Year drives away evil spirits. Red decorations fill the home and line doorways, and in Buddhist or Taoist homes, altars and statues are washed; deities are offered sweet foods. (Wikipedia has details.) Finally, the much-anticipated Reunion Dinner takes place on Chinese New Year’s Eve, when the table is filled with dishes symbolizing good luck. Those who don’t attend a New Year’s party or count down with CCTV New Year’s Gala (think Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, in the United States) will often visit a temple and ring in the New Year there. At midnight, fireworks light up the sky and the Chinese New Year—the longest and most significant holiday in all of China—has officially begun.
Many days of celebration: Each day of the New Year observance brings a new way to celebrate: On the first day, many welcome the deities and honor elders during visits, while Buddhists abstain from meat; on the second day, married daughters visit their birth parents and dogs are given special treatment on this, the “birthday of all dogs.” The third day is considered inauspicious to make visits, so many stay at home. Day four brings spring dinners—as the Chinese New Year is now popularly known also as the Spring Festival—and, in most places, people will soon be returning to work. The final day is known as the Shang Yuan Festival, or Lantern Festival, when a rice soup is eaten, candles in the home guide lost spirits and many citizens walk through the streets with lanterns.