Chinese New Year Offers a Broad Range of Festivities, Dance, Folklore

TRAVIS HAN-CRUZ
El Vaquero Staff Writer

The Chinese Spring Festival, more commonly known in the West as Chinese New Year, is considered the oldest and most important celebration in the Chinese culture.

The date of the New Year is determined by the lunar/solar calendar, rather than the Western calendar. Thus, the date of the holiday varies from late January to mid February and lasts for 15 days. This season’s festival begins on Jan. 2.

The New Year Festival celebrates the earth coming back to life. Historically, feudal rulers of dynasties placed great importance on this occasion and ceremonies to usher in the season were performed.
Preparations for the New Year festival begin during the last few days of the year’s last moon.

Houses are thoroughly cleaned, debts are repaid, hair is cut and new clothes are bought. Incense is burned in many homes as well as in the temples as a mark of respect to ancestors. Among the preparations are the decorations, which are an important feature of the celebrations for the Chinese New Year.

Doors are decorated with vertical scrolls of characters on red paper, whose texts praise nature and seek good luck. These practices stem from the hanging of wooden charms to keep away ghosts and evil spirits.
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanks. The celebration is traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household, and family ancestors.

On New Year’s Eve, houses are brightly lit and a large family dinner is served. In southern China, sticky-sweet glutinous rice pudding called “nian gao” is served, while the steamed dumpling “jiaozi” is popular in the north.

Most people stay awake until midnight when fireworks are lit. It is believed that evil spirits will be kept away in doing so.

New Year’s Day is often spent visiting neighbors, family and friends. The public holiday for New Year’s lasts three days in China, but the festival traditionally lasts until the 15th day of the lunar month and ends with the Lantern Festival.

Houses are decorated with colorful lanterns while yuanxioa, a sweet dumpling made of glutinous rice flour, is eaten.

One of Los Angeles’ most popular events, the Golden Dragon Parade in Chinatown, will occur from Jan. 22 until Jan. 24. on North Broadway and North Spring streets. Besides the procession of beautifully painted dragons, festivities include street fairs and races. Chinatown is located at the northern end of downtown, where Broadway meets Sunset Boulevard.

For details, contact the Los Angeles Chinese Chamber of Commerce at (213) 617-0396.