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The 15 Days of the Lunar New Year 2018

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The Chinese, or Lunar, New Year begins with the new moon on the first lunar month of the year, and the celebrations continue for 15 days until the moon reaches its fullest. For each of the 15 days of the Lunar New Year period, there are various traditions and events which take place to celebrate the start of the new year, as well as the ‘birthday of men’. We take a look at what each day means this year and how you should celebrate!


Feb 15: The Night Before The New Year

While this day is not a part of the 15-day celebrations, the night before the New Year commences is also an important part of the festivities. On this day, a reunion dinner traditionally takes place, with family members returning home to enjoy a feast together. As such, there is an immense migration occurring in China at this time, with an estimated three billion trips taking place between February and March this year for the New Year celebrations. Dishes served at this dinner tend to be highly symbolic, with ingredients chosen to represent wealth and luck, such as oranges, which signify gold (wealth).


Feb 16: New Year’s Day

Beginning on the first day of the first lunar month, the New Year celebrations commence with the new moon. The day is traditionally spent visiting family, particularly the more senior members, often on the husband’s side. Couples will provide lai si, the red envelopes containing money, to children as a new year gift. Guests are welcomed with sweet treats as a way to ‘sweeten’ the year to come, with sugared fruits a usual offering. The streets will fill with parades and the renowned lion dances, while plenty of fireworks are set off. 

According to Chinese legend, the goddess who created the world made a different animal on each of the first seven days, with humans being formed on the seventh day. The first day of the New Year is said to be the ‘Birthday of Chicken’, and it is considered to bring bad luck for the whole year if you kill a chicken on this day, especially as ‘chicken’ is a homophone for luck in both Mandarin and Cantonese. In fact, many do not eat meat at all on this day, in honour of a Buddhist tradition which states that no living thing should be killed on New Year’s Day. Further, vegetarian dishes are thought to cleanse the body in preparation for the year to come. 


Feb 17: ‘Birthday of Dog’

On this day, the wife’s side of the family are traditionally visited. The day is also used as a day of prayer to ancestors and gods. As the ‘birthday of dogs’, pets are also celebrated on this day.


Feb 18: ‘Birthday of Pig’

Families who have lost a loved one in the previous three years will not visit family at home on this day, as a way to respect the dead. Instead, they will visit the graves of their desceased relatives. Superstitious people stay home, as they believe that spirits roam the earth on this day, and as such, it would be bad luck to be outside. Others believe that this is the ‘day of the angry dog’, chi gou ri, which would bring poverty, as ‘chi’ means ‘deficit’.


Feb 19: ‘Birthday of Sheep’

While celebrations are still in full swing, many people return to work on this day, although businesses are likely to host big dinners and social events for all of their employees.


Feb 20: ‘Birthday of Ox’

This day is thought to be the birthday of the God of Wealth, and so windows and doors are opened at midnight to welcome in the God. Fireworks and firecrackers are again set off on this night. Traditionally, authentic Chinese cuisine is served up, with dumplings commonly eaten in the morning.


Feb 21: ‘Birthday of Horse’

On this day, the home is cleaned following the new year celebrations, and old clothes are thrown away to ward off the ‘ghost of poverty’, a folklore tale about the son of an emperor who was weak and wore dishevelled clothing.


Feb 22: ‘Birthday of Men’ 

The seventh day of the New Year celebrations is one of the most important, as it is the day on which it is believed that humankind was created by the mother goddess, Nuwa. The day is known as ‘ren ri’, meaning the day of humans, and everyone becomes a year older. If it is a sunny day, then it is considered to bring good luck and peace. In Malaysia (and increasingly in other Chinese communities), people will eat a dish known as yee sang, or lo hei, which when paired with auspicious wishes, is said to bring about a prosperous year.


Feb 23: Birthday of Rice

Celebrating the staple food of Chinese dishes, agriculture is celebrated. This day is also the eve of the Jade Emperor’s birthday, so many people have another family reunion dinner to mark the occasion, and red lanterns are lit.


Feb 24: The Jade Emperor’s Birthday

The Jade Emperor is honoured on this day to celebrate this Ruler of Heaven’s birthday. In Chinese beliefs, there are over thirty heavens, so as ruler of all heavens, the Jade Emperor is highly revered. Prayers are offered, and feasts are enjoyed.


Feb 25-27: Celebrations Continue

Celebrations continue following the emperors birthday, with more feasting, family visiting and lantern lighting, although there are no set traditions for these dates.


Feb 28 – March 1: Preparation

Vegetarian dishes are enjoyed as a way to cleanse from the rich foods enjoyed over the new year period. Lanterns are designed, made or bought in preparation for the lantern festival at the end of the fifteen days.


March 2: Lantern Festival

As the last day of the Chinese New Year, there will be an abundance of fireworks, dragon or lion dances and lanterns. The lantern festival is considered to be akin to Valentine’s Day, with ancient Chinese traditions seeing the day as an occasion for unmarried men and women to meet. Sweet dumplings made from round balls of rice, filled with bean paste or sugary fillings are enjoyed, as they are symbolic of the full moon.


If you are looking to cook up some delicious Chinese dishes to celebrate the Lunar New Year, then take a look at the great range of Chinese food in the UK available at Oriental Mart.

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