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Kung hei fat choi!

January 25th marked the start of the Chinese New Year with firecrackers, red lanterns, and red envelopes. Each year marked with a different animal based on the Chinese zodiac. Americans celebrate each year, but many of us are not familiar with how these traditions started.

You may have noticed Chinese New Year is not on the same date every year as the date is signified by the lunar calendar and starts on the second new moon after the winter solstice (December 21st). The celebrations signifies the start of warmer days to come and is known as Spring Festival in China. (Don’t we all wish it was a warmer?)

Why the red and firecrackers? According to lore, a sea monster, Nian, would come out and eat villagers at the start of the new year. In response, the villagers would stay in their homes until Nian returned to the sea. One year, a man decided to stand up to the sea monster overnight. He put up red papers and set off fireworks. In the morning, the villagers saw nothing had been destroyed and realized the color red and firecrackers scared off the monster. Now, people will wear red on new years (some wear red underwear all year) for good luck. The red envelopes exchanged with money represent the passing down of fortune from the elders to the kids.

Chinese New Year brings families together. On New Year’s Eve, the annual reunion dinner takes place. Known as the Spring Migration, families travel near and far to gather and celebrate, similar to America’s Thanksgiving or Christmas. Dumplings and special meats are served as offerings to the new year.

The holiday has 15 days of celebrations and concludes with the Lantern Festival. February 8th marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities this year. Lanterns, typically red for good fortune, are lit and sent off into the sky to signify letting go of our past selves and welcoming in the new. A beautiful sight to see!

To the year of the Metal Rat, Kung hei fat choi!