When is it?
According to the Chinese lunisolar calendar, The Chinese New Year 2021 or the Spring Festival starts on Friday 12th February and for over 1000 years it has been the most important and widely celebrated holiday in the world.
The date of the Festival fluctuates but falls in either January or February. Chinese Year 4717 starts on Friday 12th February 2021 and it’s the year of Yang Metal Ox . Chinese New Year is also called “Spring Festival” and “Lunar New Year” because it falls in spring and is dated based on the Chinese lunar calendar. It is a huge event in Singapore.
The Chinese Zodiac
Each Chinese New Year is designated as one of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac. 2021 is the year of the Metal Ox. The Ox is the first year in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. After this lunar year, the next year is Year of the Tiger. The Ox is a “yang” and also a water sign. The closest Western correspondent sign is the Capricorn.
According to legend, the order of the Chinese zodiac animals representing the year has been decided by a race. The Ox is the second animal out of 12 Chinese zodiac signs, while the Pig is the last. The Chinese zodiac signs run in strict sequence, beginning with the Rat, and followed in turn by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Monkey, Sheep, Rooster, Dog, and finally, the Pig. Each Animal stands as a symbol , denoting the essential ‘character’, ‘colour’, and ‘flavour’ that influences all things that come into being in any one year.
The five elements in the Chinese zodiac namely metal, wood, water, fire and earth are represented by the five planets (Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Saturn in respective order). Each of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs are governed by the five elements, which also have a yang (male) and a ying (female) side.
The 15 days of the festival
The public holiday in China for celebrating the New Year lasts 15 days. The holiday is the cause of the largest annual mass human migration in the world, with a number of over 3.6 billion trips made in China. Who knows what will happen in the Covid-19 restricted world this year. Singapore has 2 days national holidays.
The Chinese mythology claims that Nian was a creature that lived under the sea or on top of mountains. It is said that every year at the beginning of the Spring Festival, the Nian would come out of hiding to eat the crops and sometimes the villagers. People discovered how to scare him away with red lanterns and explosions of fireworks, which led the traditional New Year’s celebration. Fireworks, traditional lion and dragon dances, lanterns display and street performances mark the 15 days festival, culminating with the Lantern Festival, which takes place on the last day of the Chinese New Year. The bamboo used to be set of fire to keep evil spirits away, which might have been giving rise to the present day fireworks. The Lunar New Year is celebrated worldwide in countries with big Chinese communities, including Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Day one – The first day of the Metal Ox lunar New Year . The gods of heaven and earth are welcomed and meat is avoided to promote longevity and happiness
Day two : Prayers are sent to the gods and ancestors.
Day three and four Son-in-laws pay respect to their bride’s parents.
Day five : Named Po Woo, this day is spent at home to welcome the God of Wealth. It is bad luck to visit anyone on this day.
Days six to ten : The Chinese are now free to visit their loved ones, and pray for good fortune in the temples.
Day seven: The birthday of all humans celebrated with a drink made by the farmers from seven types of vegetable. Raw fish is eaten to promote success, and noodles for longevity.
Day eight: Prayers are sent at midnight from the Fujian people, to Tian Gong, the God of Heaven.
Day nine: Offerings are made to the jade Emperor.
Days 10 to 12: Invites are sent to friends and relatives to visit for dinner.
Day 13: Simple foods are eaten so as to detox after rich foods at friends and relatives.
Day 14: Time is taken for preparation for the Lantern Festival celebration on the 15th night.
Day 15: Jai, a vegetarian dish is enjoyed by the family.
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions in Singapore, each household will only be able to receive a maximum of 8 guests per day. This has caused some social calendar rearranging for families and rescheduling who to invite and on what day. In addition shouting during the traditional Yusheng is banned and masks must be worn.
Ang Bao or Hongbao
In Chinese and other Asian cultures, it is customary to give a red envelope is a monetary gift, usually given by elders and others to the unmarried and children on New Year for prosperity and good luck. It is customary that both the envelopes and the money inside are brand new. Money has to be given in even numbers, with an amount containing the number 8 being seen as the luckiest. 4 must be avoided at all costs as it is sounds like ‘death’ in Mandarin and is associated with death and funerals. The ang bao should be given and received with both hands whilst saying Gong Xi Fa Cai – wishing you happiness and prosperity.
Firecrackers and fireworks are set off at midnight to send away the old year and welcome the new one. On New Year’s Eve, at midnight, the doors and windows are opened to let the old year go out. (Fireworks are illegal in Singapore outside government organised displays.)
Red is the colour associated with fire, which is thought to ward off evil spirits, this is why many Chinese people wear red.
Hair Any haircuts need to be completed before the New Year, as cutting hair on this day is considered bad luck. Getting a new haircut before the New Year is believed to keep the evil spirits away. Hair washing is forbidden on New Year’s Day, as it is said to wash away good luck for all the rest of the year. It is also recommended to avoid using scissors on New Year’s Day, so you don’t accidentally cut your luck.
Buying gold to welcome the New Year is a common practice. Specially created pieces in the Chinese zodiac are popular as is gold in the form of the animal of that year – so an Ox for this year. Large queues can form at popular jewellers.
Reconciliation Making amends, reconciling with people, avoiding offenses, and reestablishing relationships and friendships are important things to accomplish before the New Year.
Dragons Silk, paper and bamboo dragons are part of the New Year celebration. Dragons are legendary creatures that are helpful and friendly. They are known to scare away evil spirits, bring wisdom, good luck, wealth and prosperity.
A Hoi Nin prayer is said by business people on the second day of Chinese New Year to attract good luck and prosperity in their business for the year.
Cleaning Houses are cleaned out thoroughly before the New Year arrives to “sweep out any bad luck”.
Debts If possible, all the people who owe money try to settle their debts before the New Year, as they are considered a bad sign. Borrowing or lending money should also be avoided on New Year, anyone doing so it is said to borrow and lend money all year round.
CryIng should be avoided at all cost since it is believed that if you cry on New Year’s Day you will do so all year.
Leaving the house The superstitious Chinese people can consult an Almanac in order to find out which is the best time and direction to leave the house on New Year’s Day.
Reunion On New Year’s Eve dinner reunion, 8 courses are usually served because 8 is considered to be a lucky number. To attract wealth, tangerines and oranges are placed in fruit bowl around the house. The Yusheng or Prosperity Toss is conducted during this reunion dinner. It is a Cantonese style raw fish salad mixed with 7 coloured shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments. Auspicious wishes are shouted as each ingredient is added and tossed. The higher the toss the better the auspiciousness. It is considered to be a symbol of prosperity, abundance and vigour.
Mandarins It is traditional to take two mandarin oranges to any house yo7 have been invited to over the festival period. This usually leads to a lot of mandarins being consumed during this time and they are sold by the box load in supermarkets who set up separate sections for mandarin tasting and collection.