It's time to usher in the Year of the Horse!
For many of us, 2014 has been in full swing an entire month, but for the Chinese, the festivities have only just begun! January 31, 2014 marks the start of the Chinese New Year and kicks off two weeks of celebrating, eating, and spending time with the ones we love — making it the longest-lasting (and grandest) holiday in the culture. So in honor of the big event, we thought we'd share our favorite Chinese New Year family traditions.
1. Reunite With Everyone You Love
Hands down, the most traditional and cherished aspect of the New Year is reuniting with family. Gathering all of the generations together to celebrate the holiday is so important that many Chinese people return to their native villages for the celebration — even if it means flying in from across the world. Those who can't make the trip often get together with neighbors and attend local festivities in their area.
2. Dig Into The Big Feast
What holiday is complete without a proper feast (or feasts)? The Chinese New Year is full of delicious meals, none more significant than the highly anticipated New Year's Eve dinner (also called "weilu"), which honors family ancestors. Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, grandchildren, great grandchildren and more attend these savory events, where delicious dishes of nian gao cake, steamed rice pudding, long noodles and dumplings are commonly served. It's a little-known fact that when fish is included, the Chinese make a particular point not to finish it for superstitious reasons.
3. Pay Homage To Lost Loved Ones
The Lunar New Year is intended to be a community celebration, one that recognizes members of generations passed just as much as living relatives. Ancestors are thoughtfully honored for their role in laying the foundations of a family's wealth and prosperity in several different ways. During the first big feast of the holiday, family members gather and offer sacrifices to the deceased. They also light candles below pictures of relatives and eat in their honor.
4. Have A Little Childish Fun
Before they can sit down to eat, families gather together and spend the evening making Chinese dumplings. A common tradition involves concealing a coin in one of the dumplings and distributing them among family members. Whoever discovers the coin in his or her dumpling will supposedly have good luck for the New Year. In addition, older family members present children with red money packets (red represents luck in the Chinese culture), decorated with gold designs and filled with "lucky money."
Celebrating our family ties, making amends and letting go of grudges are all cherished customs of the Chinese holiday. And getting a fresh start is something we can celebrate every day — not just on the Lunar New Year. Will you be celebrating Chinese New Year?
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