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Chinese New Year !

Following the Chinese Lunar calendar the New Year Festivals or commonly known as the Spring Festval falls on the first day of the first month of the Lunar Calendar. Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays. The Chinese New Year falls on different dates every year as it is based on lunar calendar and the calendar follows a 12-year pattern with each year named after an animal. generally the dates fall on the month of January or early February. The story which explains this, says Lord Buddha invited all the animals to join him in the new year celebrations but only 12 animals turned up. To reward the animals Buddha named a year after each of them. The history of celebration of the new year is very interesting and unique.
According to the story there was a giant called Nian who swallowed human beings in one chance. But he was scared of red colour and loud noises. So the people of China decided to burst crackers and use red colors to scare the monster. Since then, this day was named as GuNian meaning "Pass over the Nian". Chinese considered the day an auspicious one as it brought new life for them and celebrated it as a New Year.
Chinese residing in China and all other parts of the world celebrate this festival in traditional chinese ways following all the customs. Planning and preparation for the festival starts almost a month back. Markets and towns are decorated with lights and colors and all the necessary items needed for the celebration. People throng to all these places for shopping for the festival. Arrangement for lion dance and burning of fire crackers are made as these are the customs to drive away the evils. All the homes, doors and window-frames are cleaned, given a new coat of red paint and are decorated with colorful streamers and paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases and couplets, the revelers shop some of the finest foods like Mandarin oranges, Turnip Cakes, Nian Gao, Melon Seed, Jiaozi dumplings, etc. Purchasing new clothing, shoes and receiving a hair-cut also symbolize a fresh start. Lot of excitement can be seen in the 15 days of New Year celebrations. People began their day by offering prayers and welcome the gods of heaven and earth. They offer their prayers to their ancestors and other gods. Chinese are strict care-taker of dogs and thia day is considered to be the birthday of all dogs. So they feed the dogs well on this day. On this day people meet their near and dear ones and even visit nearby temples to pray for their well being and high spirits. On the Eve of Chinese New Year supper is a feast with families and foods range from pigs, to ducks, to chicken and sweet delicacies. The dinner is a very important part of the celebration of the New Year. A dish consisting of fish which is a display for the supper. In northern China it is customary to make dumplings, locally called jiaozi, after dinner and have it around midnight. Dumplings symbolize wealth because their shape is like a Chinese tael. In the South, it is customary to make a new year cake called Niangao and send pieces of it as gifts to relatives and friends in the coming days of the new year. Niangao literally means increasingly prosperous year.
It is a common tradition for adults or young couples to give red packets to children. Red packets almost always contain money, usually varying from a couple of dollars to several hundred. Per custom, the amount of money in the red packets should be of even numbers, as odd numbers are associated with cash given during funerals. Other than the red packets small gifts are also exchanged among friends and relatives which include fruits like oranges, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, candies, or some other small gift.

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