I have very fond memories of my time there, and look forward to making my way back to this vibrant city.
The festival celebrates the end of the coldest days of winter - time to welcome Spring, new beginnings and fresh starts.
The end of the Spring Festival is celebrated with the Lantern Festival - a time for reunions, socializing and celebrating freedom. The history behind the lanterns is lengthy and may date back as far as the Han Dynasty (206 BC).
One fun fact is that the day of the Lantern Festival is also sometimes called China's true Valentine's Day.
- The Lunar New Year is not a set date. It begins on the new moon that appears between January 21 and February 20 .
- The Lunar New Year is China's longest holiday - officially 15 days (16 days with New Year's Eve). However, the government, businesses and universities do not close for the entire period - generally only from New Year's Eve to the 7th day of the festival. Banks and some businesses will remain open during most of the period.
- Children receive red packets with money, symbolizing a transfer of fortune from elders to their children . It is also customary for bosses to present these gifts to their employees.
- It is taboo to take a shower on New Year's Day, in fear of washing away good luck.
- It is also taboo to sweep or throw out garbage before the 5th day. It is customary to do this on New Year's Eve - to sweep away bad luck and make room for the good.
One year an old beggar (others say a young boy) decided to fight off the monster. When the Nian rushed into the village, it was greeted with red paper framing the door of the brightly lit home where the beggar was and the sound of firecrackers. As it turns out, the only things the Nian feared were the color red, bright lights and loud sounds.
Terrified, the Nian fled the village. When the villagers returned, the old beggar was gone, thus people believing he came from the heavens to help them.
Since then, every Lunar New Year, households hang red paper around their doors, keep their homes brightly lit and set off firecrackers to keep the Nian away.
- The largest amount of firecrackers anywhere in the world used to be set off in China on the Lunar New Year. Unfortunately, due to pollution, the practice of setting off firecrackers is now largely banned.
- Red, however, continues to be China's favorite color. It helps scare the Nian away, and represents happiness and good fortune.
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