|The Chinese New Year has a great history. In Western traditions, by this time of year, most resolutions – made on December 31 – have been subtly forgotten and placed in a cupboard marked “maybe next year.” However, all hope is not lost, as there’s a new chance to start afresh with the Chinese New Year on February 3rd. This year Manchester China Town will be hosting its Chinese New Year celebrations on Sunday, 6th February 2011.The Chinese New Year is swathed in age-old traditions and rituals. The origin of the Chinese New Year is itself centuries old – in fact, too old to be actually traced. It was popularly recognised as the Spring Festival and celebrations last 15 days.Preparations tend to begin a few days before the Chinese New Year (similar to a Western Christmas), when people start buying presents, decoration materials, food and clothing. A huge clean-up gets underway one or two days before the New Year when Chinese homes are cleaned from top to bottom to sweep away any traces of bad luck and ill fortunes from the previous year, then doors and window panes are given a new coat of paint, usually red.However, not all modern families follow all the cleaning rituals these days. The doors and windows are then decorated with paper cuts and couplets with themes such as happiness, wealth and longevity printed on them. At midnight the doors and windows are opened to welcome all the good fortune of the forthcoming year.
The eve of the Chinese New Year is perhaps the most exciting part of the event as anticipation creeps in. Here, traditions and rituals are very carefully observed in everything from food to clothing. Dinner is usually a feast of seafood and dumplings, signifying different good wishes. Delicacies include prawns, for liveliness and happiness, dried oysters (or ho xi), for all things good, raw fish salad or (yu sheng) to bring good luck and prosperity, Angel hair or (Fai-hai), an edible hair-like seaweed to bring prosperity, and dumplings boiled in water (Jiaozi) signifying a long-lost good wish for a family. It’s usual to wear something red as this colour is meant to ward off evil spirits – black and white are out as these are associated with mourning. After dinner, the family sit up for the night playing cards, board games or watching TV programmes dedicated to the occasion.
At midnight, the sky is lit up by fireworks.
On the day itself, an ancient custom of giving Hong Bao, meaning Red Packet, takes place. Married couples place money in red envelopes to give to children. The colour red will adorn everything and everyone as it symbolises good luck. Then the family will give greetings from door to door, first to their relatives and then their neighbours. Like the Western saying “let bygones be bygones,” at Chinese New Year, grudges are very easily cast aside.
The end of the New Year is marked by the Festival of Lanterns, which is a celebration with singing, dancing and lantern shows.
Celebrations of the Chinese New Year vary from region to region, though the underlying message is one of peace and happiness for family members and friends.