History of Chinese New Year
Here's a short history of Chinese New Year. Visit these pages for more information on When is Chinese New Year
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The Chinese started celebrating their version of the New Year in 2000 B.C., and it became a significant holiday to them over the years. The Chinese New Year is set according to the lunar calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar. It is a time to celebrate with friends and family.
Did you know though that the celebration was out of fear? The Chinese New Year is full of traditions and legends. One popular legend is the one based on Nien (means year), which is a ferocious and wicked beast. It is believed that this beast ate people during the night before Chinese New Year's Day. To keep this beast from coming around couplets of red paper are attached on the doors, firecrackers are set off all night, and the torches burn brightly. This is done because Nien is afraid of firelight, loud noises, and the red color.
In the morning all feel triumphant because they made it through the without Nien eating them. This means that have chased away Nien one more year. The people greet each on Chinese New Year Day by saying kung-hsi which simply means congratulations.
The actual celebrations for this New Year last just for a few days, but the festival that goes along with it last for several weeks. The festival actually starts day 24 in the 12th month. Various gods are thought to ascend up to heaven on this day to give homage to the ruler of heaven, the Jade Emperor. For more about this aspect of this history of Chinese New Year
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People would even bribe the Kitchen God with sugar to keep it quiet or for a good report to be passed onto the Jade Emperor. Many of this type of traditions are no longer practiced though. Things started changing about 1912.
This is when the Chinese government changed the name of the Chinese New Year festival to the "Spring Festival". This was done to have people changeover and celebrate the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar. It took several years for this change to occur though, finally in 1928 the official New Year became January 1st like that of the Western world. (For more on this go to:
Many other changes happened after that including the banning of fireworks. The government changed certain vacation days in hopes of doing away with the festival all together. However the following year the people celebrated it anyway.
Today some of the younger Chinese people do not even know about some of the old traditions and beliefs. Foods that were just eaten during the celebration of Chinese New Year are now eaten on all days. New clothes and other traditional once-a-year things are done more often too.
But one thing has not changed for the New Year celebration; it is still a time for family and friends to be together. Everyone still tries to get home to gather with the family and pay respect to their parents. That means many people are on the move this time of year.
For some great further information on the history of Chinese New Year visit the sites listed above, or go to
this page on the history channel website
for both information and some informative videos. It is fascinating to learn the history behind the Chinese New Year celebrations.
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