Happy Year of the Horse! 马到成功!

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Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve, the last day of Year of the Snake. Happy New Year – Year of the Horse!

骏马做伴, 一马当先, 恭祝朋友们马年大吉大利!

The first day of the 2014 Chinese New Year is on January 31, 2014 in China’s time zone. This day is a new moon day, and is the first day of the first Chinese lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar system.

Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is known as “Spring Festival,” the literal translation of the Chinese name 春节 (Pinyin: Chūn Jié), since the spring season in Chinese calendar starts with lichun, the first solar term in a Chinese calendar year. It marks the end of the winter season, analogous to the Western carnival. The festival begins on the first day of the first month (Chinese: 正月) in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. Chinese New Year’s Eve, a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner, is known as Chú Xī (除夕) or “Eve of the Passing Year.” Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the “Lunar New Year“.

A reunion dinner is held on New Year’s Eve where members of the family gather for the celebration. The venue will usually be in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year’s Eve dinner is very sumptuous and traditionally includes chicken and fish. In some areas, fish (Chinese: 鱼) is included, but not eaten completely (and the remainder is stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase “may there be surpluses every year” (Chinese: 年年有余) sounds the same as “may there be fish every year.”

Dumplings (Chinese: 饺子), eaten traditionally in northern China because the preparation is similar to packaging luck inside the dumpling.

Sticky Rice Cake, Niangao or Chinese New Year cake (Chinese: 年糕), most popular in eastern China because its pronunciation is a homophone for “a more prosperous year (年高 lit year high)”.Image

According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian (Chinese: 年). Nian would come on the first day of New Year to eat livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, Nian never came to the village again. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk. The Nian became Hongjun Laozu’s mount.

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This picture brings back a lot of memory from many years ago. It’s how exactly we placed 饺子 (dumplings) on 盖帘 (a disk-shaped apparatus made of stalks of broomcorn which is used to hold food or cover a vat or a basin).

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