Chinese New Year ,also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It consists of a period of celebrations, starting on New Year's Day, celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, i.e. the day of the second new moon after the day on which the winter solstice occurs, unless there is an intercalary eleventh or twelfth month in the lead-up to the New Year—in such a case, the New Year falls on the day of the third new moon after the solstice. (The next time this occurs is in 2033.) The Chinese New Year period ends with the Lantern Festival, the fifteenth day of the month.
Some Chinese believe that Nian ("Nyehn") was a reptilian predator that could infiltrate houses silently like the infamous man-eating leopards of India. The Chinese soon learned that Nian was sensitive to loud noises, and they scared it away with explosions and fireworks.
The origin of the Lunar New Year Festival can be traced back thousands of years, involving a series of colorful legends and traditions. One of the most famous legends is Nian, an extremely cruel and ferocious beast that the ancients believed would devour people on New Year's Eve. To keep Nian away, red-paper couplets are pasted on doors, torches are lit, and firecrackers are set off throughout the night, because Nian is said to fear the color red, the light of fire, and loud noises. Early the next morning, as feelings of triumph and renewal fill the air at successfully keeping Nian away for another year, the most popular greeting heard is "gong xi fa cai", or "congratulations."
To ensure good luck in the coming year, the Taiwanese always give every dish a special name. This dish is called the "Five Blessings for the New Year" and represents longevity, wealth, peace, wisdom, and righteousness. (Photo by Su-ching Chang) Even though Lunar New Year celebrations generally last for only several days, starting on New Year's Eve, the festival itself is actually about three weeks long. It begins on the twenty-fourth day of the twelfth lunar month, the day, it is believed, when various gods ascend to heaven to pay their respects and report on household affairs to the Jade Emperor, the supreme Taoist deity. According to tradition, households busily honor these gods by burning ritualistic paper money to provide for their traveling expenses. Another ritual is to smear malt sugar on the lips of the Kitchen God, one of the traveling deities, to ensure that he either submits a favorable report to the Jade Emperor or keeps silent.
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