Almost everyone, whether you're Chinese or not, associates Chinese New Year with red envelopes. To be fair, getting copious amounts of money in the name of tradition is pretty awesome. But there is more to this celebration and a lot of us forget that it's not just about the dollar bills.
My parents never stopped to explain the whole concept of Chinese New Year. I learned by doing and by asking questions throughout the years. Even with 20 years of questions, I still don't have a complete picture of why we do what we do. So I figured it's about time that I utilized the almighty Google and do some research on Chinese New Year customs. Keep in mind that Chinese people tend to be superstitious (at least my family and relatives). As a result, some of our rituals are based on superstitions that were passed down from many many generations ago. Some of the things that I had to do as a kid definitely makes me laugh. I just didn't get it. But now, I'm more curious than ever. I want to learn how and why these New Year rituals and rules came to be.
Uh... what's Chinese New Year anyway?
Traditionally, the holiday is celebrated as a Spring Festival and it's the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. Chinese New Year follows a lunisolar calendar and it's celebrated on the first day of the first month in the Chinese calendar – the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice. The festival ends on 15th day of the first month, also known as the Lantern Festival. This year, Chinese New Year starts on February 18th and ends on March 5th.
Truthfully, I know nothing about the Chinese calendar and I only knew about this year's dates because of my parents. The coolest aspect of the Chinese calendar is that each year corresponds to one of 12 different zodiac signs and animals. It just so happens that 2015 is my year... meaning it's the year of the 羊. Because the Chinese character 羊 can mean both goat and sheep, I'm going to stick to Chinese so we're not lost in translation.