January 28th, 2017 was a special day for many of those who celebrate Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is a traditional festival that marks the beginning of a new lunar year. It falls anytime between January and February every year and varies depending on the lunar calendar.
The celebration begins on New Year’s Eve which is called “年三十” (pronounced nian san shi) in Chinese. Families gather for reunions and eat dinner together in order to welcome the new year ahead. The gathering is very important as it symbolizes unity, harmony and good fortune for the household. Many households also decorate their homes with red banners that have blessings written on them and plants such as tangerine trees in wishing for prosperity and good luck in the year ahead.
The first day of the new year is called “初一” (chu yi). Families congregate at an elder’s house and spend the day there. Red packets which contain money and represent good luck are also given from senior family members to the younger ones in the family. Glutinous rice cakes （年糕 nian gao） and sweet traditional Chinese foods are served throughout the day, symbolizing that the year to come will be filled with happiness and joy. The festival is also celebrated outside of households. Community-based activities such as the lion dance and the dragon dance are performed as well in celebrations that take place in cities and towns.
Each lunar year is associated with an animal in the zodiac which cycles through every 12 years. This year is the Year of the Rooster. Zodiacs are similar to horoscopes, and a person’s zodiac is determined by which year he/she is born.
The city of Hong Kong celebrates the festival with a firework performance hosted by the government at the heart of Hong Kong – the Victoria Harbor – during nighttime on New Year’s Day. Night markets that sell traditional foods and plants are also hosted and are open all night on New Year’s Eve.
The celebration of Chinese New Year remains one of the most important events of the year for the Chinese and is at the core of Chinese culture. Many overseas Chinese families still retain and celebrate the festival.