When is it Celebrated?
Spring festival, or what is more known as the Chinese New Year, is considered one of the most important events in China. The celebration is based on the lunar calendar, so that the first day of the lunar year marks the Chinese New Year. Thus, the event falls between late January to early February. The celebration begins on the eve of the lunar new year and continues on until the fifth day of the lunar calendar's first month. Next will come the lantern festival. This year Chinese New Year falls on February 3; the Year of the Rabbit.
How is it Celebrated?
Generally, the Chinese people prepares for this holiday by making sure everything in their life is in order, or at least under control. By this I mean the house should be clean, rifts or problems should be resolved, clothes worn should be clean or new, etc. At midnight there are fireworks and firecrackers to greet the coming of the new year. The belief behind this is that the noise created by the firecrackers will drive away evil spirits.
What's in the Menu?
After the festivities, the family will sit down to a feast. A sticky rice pudding called nian gao (or "tikoy") as well as dumplings is usually present in these feasts. Nian gao is also given to family and friends; the belief behind this is that the stickiness of the nian gao will hold or bind the family together. Also, because of its round shape and sweet taste, it is said to bring good fortune and sweetness to one's life. In my home, we usually cut the nian gao into lengthwise pieces, roll it into beaten eggs and fried. It's delicious!
Other Aspects of the Chinese New Year
Houses are decorated with lights and lanterns. Red is a popular color to wear when ushering in the Chinese New Year. Also, hongbao, or red envelopes that contain money, are given to family and friends (especially the youngsters) as a symbol of luck and wealth. There are also lots of musical performances and parades; the most famous of which is the dragon and lion dance. In the Chinese culture, the dragon is the deity of water ensuring that no drought will come. The lion, on the other hand, helps ward off evil spirits since it symbolizes power and courage.
Music and the Chinese New Year
Here are several music resources you can use at home or in your classroom to celebrate the Chinese New Year:
- Smile At Everyone You See - English version of a Chinese song with midi.
- Chinese New Year Songs- Several well-loved children's songs adapted for the Chinese New Year celebration.
- Wishing You Good Fortune and Happiness - An action song for the Chinese New Year; there is also a music sheet.
- Music to Ring In Chinese New Year - An article from NPR with suggested pieces for the Chinese New Year.