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New Year Traditions

    Chinese New Year

    The Chinese New Year "Yuan Tan" takes place between January 21 and February 20. The exact date is fixed by the lunar calendar, in which a new moon marks the beginning of each new month.

    For many families, it is a time for feasting, visiting relatives and friends, but in the city a spectacular procession takes place. The celebrations are based on bringing luck, health, happiness, and wealth till the next year. They clean their houses to rid them of lasts year's bad luck before the celebrations begin.

    There are street parades where thousands of people line the streets to watch the procession of floats in the New Year parade. Dancing dragons and lions weave their way through the crowded streets. The dragon is associated with longevity and wealth. Inside the costumes are 50 dancers, twisting and turning the dragon's long silk body and blinking eyes.

    Chinese people believe that evil spirits dislike loud noises so they decorate their houses with plastic firecrackers. The loud noises are intended to frighten away evil spirits and bad luck that the spirits might bring.

    They also go to the markets to buy plants and flowers that will bring them good luck for the New Year. The Kumquat tree is considered to be the luckiest because its name is a play on the word lucky.

    The peach blossom is also considered to be lucky and the markets are decorated with the delicate blossoms wrapped in tissue paper that stops them getting damaged.

    The Tangerine is lucky because of its bright color, but, odd numbers are unlucky, so the tangerines are always given in pairs.

    The people in Hong Kong are not allowed to set of real firecrackers so instead they use plastic firecrackers as decorations. Red is the color for clothes and all decorations because it is associated with joy and happiness.

    Lucky money is given out in red envelopes with the family name and good-luck message written on them in gold. They are given on New Year by relatives, but, only to the unmarried as well as the children of the family.

    The feast on New Year is always big for the first day of the year. If the New Year falls on the year of any particular animal the Chinese try not to eat that animalís meat.

    The first thing people do on Chinese New Year is offering ritual homage to one's ancestors. It is then paid to the gods, followed by younger family members paying their respects to their living relatives.

    New clothes are worn, and visits are made to friends, neighbors, and relatives to exchange good wishes of kung-hsi fa-tsai, which means "congratulations and prosperity." As an occasion for reconciliation, it's a time when old grudges are cast aside amidst an atmosphere of warmth and friendliness.

    One of the most spectacular sights during the Chinese New Year Festival is the dragon and lion dance. The heads of these fearsome beasts are supposed to ward off evil, and the nimble movements of the dancers provide a grand spectacle enjoyable to everyone.

    The second day of the Festival is the day that married daughters return to their parents' home. If she is a newlywed, her husband must accompany her and bring gifts for her family.

    The third day of the lunar New Year is the day when mice marry off their daughters. Thus, on that night, people are supposed to go to bed early so that the mice can perform their wedding ceremonies.

    On the fourth day, the fervor begins to ebb. In the afternoon, people prepare offerings of food to welcome the return of the Kitchen God and his retinue from their trip to the Jade Emperor's court. The Kitchen God's return signifies the end of freedom from spiritual surveillance, "It's never too early to send off the gods, and never too late to invite them back."

    Day five almost brings the Chinese New Year festivities to a close. All offerings are removed from the altars and life returns to normal.

    Finally, on the ninth day, numerous offerings are set out in the forecourt or central courtyard of temples to celebrate the birthday of the Jade Emperor, who was believed to have been born immediately after midnight on the ninth day.

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