Chinese New Year or Spring Festival (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Chūnjié), or the Lunar New Year (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Nónglì xīnnián), is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is an important holiday in East Asia. The festival traditionally begins on the first day of the first lunar month (Chinese: 正月; pinyin: zhēng yuè) in the Chinese calendar and ends on the 15th; this day is called the Lantern festival (simplified Chinese: 元宵; traditional Chinese: 元宵; pinyin: yuánxiāojié).

Chinese New Year’s Eve is known as Chúxì (除夕). Chu literally means “change” and xi means “Eve”.

Celebrated in areas with large populations of ethnic Chinese, Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had a strong influence on the new year celebrations of its geographic neighbours, as well as cultures with whom the Chinese have had extensive interaction. These include Koreans, Mongolians, Nepalese, Bhutanese, Vietnamese, and formerly the Japanese before 1873. In Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and other countries with significant Chinese populations, Chinese New Year is also celebrated, largely by overseas Chinese, but it is not part of the traditional culture of these countries. In Thailand, for example, the true New Year celebration of the ethnic Thais is Songkran, which is totally different and is celebrated in April.

For the festival associated with mooncakes sometimes called Lantern Festival, see Mid-Autumn Festival.

Lantern Festival celebration in Shijiazhuang

Lantern Festival celebration in Shijiazhuang

Year 2007 Taiwan Lantern Festival in Chiayi, Taiwan

Year 2007 Taiwan Lantern Festival in Chiayi, Taiwan

The Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival is also known as the Little New Year since it marks the end of the series of celebrations starting from the Chinese New Year. Koreans celebrate this festival as the Daeboreum.

History

The origin of Lantern Festival dates back in the early Han Dynasty during Emperor Wu of Han‘s reign. Legend has it that Emperor Wu of Han had a dream of his palace being burned down and felt that the dream was a bad omen, so he asked his subjects in his imperial court for advice the next day. Some of the subjects took the opportunity to perform a good deed for the thousands of concubines and female servants in the imperial palace who were prohibited from going home by telling the emperor that the dream was indeed a bad omen and the palace would be burnt down to the ground by deities. In order to avoid impending disaster, each female resident in the imperial palace must carry a lantern and go home, thus fooling the deities in believing there was already a fire in palace and people were fleeing, and every one would return to the palace afterwards. The emperor agreed and of course, there was no fire at the palace and the emperor credited the supposedly successful aversion of the disastrous fire with what was done, and hence he decreed the event to become a regular festival. As a result, the festival eventually became a family reunion day when it merged with other Chinese traditions of various regions in China over time, such as eating tangyuan (simplified Chinese: 汤圆; traditional Chinese: 湯圓; pinyin: tāngyuán), a sweet glutinous rice dumpling served in a sugary soup, symbolizing family reunion.[1]

Traditionally, the Lantern Festival is also used to serve as a day for love and matchmaking, on which an unmarried girl was traditionally permitted to appear in public unescorted and thus be seen by eligible bachelors. It was one of the few nights in ancient times without a strict curfew. Young people were chaperoned in the streets in hopes of finding love. Matchmakers acted busily in hopes of pairing couples. The brightest lanterns were symbolic of good luck and hope. As time has progressed, however, the festival no longer has such implications nowadays.

Those who do not carry lanterns often enjoy watching informal lantern parades. In addition to eating tangyuan (simplified Chinese: 汤圆; traditional Chinese: 湯圓; pinyin: tāngyuán), other popular activities at this festival include and guessing lantern riddles (which became part of the festival since Tang Dynasty), often messages of good fortune, family reunion, abundant harvest, prosperity and love.

Source : wikipedia

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