Chinese New Year. Traditions of the holiday

In anticipation of the New Year according to the Chinese calendar, in our traditional column "Exhibit in Detail" we present you the items depicting the Chinese dragon, stored in the museum "Collection".

On the cover: Dragons in tongues of flame. Luis Alberto Quispe Aparicio, the 20th century
Set of glasses with decanter "Chinese dragon". Luis Alberto Quispe Aparicio, the 20th century
Chinese dragon. Luis Alberto Quispe Aparicio, the 20th century
Chinese dragon from the series "Myriads" No.106/300. Design Tabertshofer Heinz, Swarovski, 2009-2012

Chinese New Year is the major and longest-running holiday in the Celestial Empire and is celebrated not only in China, but also in the countries and territories with predominantly or mainly Chinese population, including Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, the Philippines, and Chinatowns in big cities around the world. It is also called Lunar New Year, Spring Festival or Spring Convention in the Chinese culture. Chinese New Year is timed to coincide with the second new moon after the winter solstice. In 2024, it begins on 10 February. It will be celebrated in China from 10 to 24 February.

The tradition of celebrating the Chinese New Year dates back more than 3,500 years. According to one version, the holiday appeared during the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC), when people began to celebrate the coming of the year with sacrifices in honor of the gods. The lighting of fireworks and firecrackers on New Year's Eve in China is connected with the legend that on New Year's Eve evil spirits, expelled from various places, look for a new shelter and settle in it, and all the coming year create troubles for the new owners. Before the invention of firecrackers, any household utensil that was at hand was used to create noise. Since the 14th century A.D. in China there was a custom on the eve of the New Year to throw bamboo sticks into the stove, which, when burnt, emitted a strong crackling sound, thus scaring away evil spirits. Later these sticks were replaced by firecrackers and pyrotechnics, but the name remained the same.

Since ancient times, the Chinese have associated the New Year (Spring Festival) with hopes for future family happiness, health and prosperity. There was also a belief that evil spirits were afraid of the red color, so this color prevailed everywhere on this day.
On New Year Eve, Chinese families gather around the table to see off the old year and welcome the New Year. It is customary in the Celestial Empire to set the table for a festive dinner as richly as possible, according to financial possibilities. Hostesses, as a rule, prepare the most favorite dishes in the family. Traditionally, the table must have meat and fish, as well as dumplings, which are a figurative embodiment of one of the main wishes — the birth of sons. All dishes that are traditionally served on the table during the Chinese New Year have their own symbolic meaning. For example, noodles mean longevity, red pepper symbolizes happiness, fish brings prosperity and so on. The Chinese tend to spend the New Year Eve at the table in the house of their parents, on the eve of the holiday all transport in the country is crowded. In China, there is a tradition that dates back to ancient times: during New Year celebrations, when visiting relatives and friends, present the hosts with two mandarins, and when leaving, receive two other mandarins from the hosts. The origin of this tradition is attributed to the fact that in Chinese the word "pair of mandarins" is consonant with the word "gold".
In the morning, the whole family goes to congratulate relatives and neighbors, following the main rule: it is the time of reconciliation and forgiveness of offences. It is customary to give gifts of paired objects symbolizing unity and family harmony - two vases, two mugs, etc.

The Chinese have a holiday from the first to the seventh day of the Lunar New Year (from the 10th to the 17th February this year). Most establishments, institutions, enterprises and shops are closed at this time, so people in the Celestial Empire have to buy food and essentials in advance.

On 18 February, the weekend ends and the working week begins, but the celebrations continue. Chinese people carry figures of dragons and lions through the streets. Both of these animals are very symbolic in Chinese culture. The lion is a powerful and majestic character in mythology, nevertheless parading with it is often accompanied by comic moments, while the dragon symbolizes goodness and the Chinese nation as a whole. Chinese New Year celebrations conclude with the Lantern Festival, which includes various games, theatrical processions and dances in honor of the lion and dragon. The festival marks the first full moon of the new lunar year and the end of the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) celebrations. Lanterns can be seen everywhere on the holiday, including homes, shopping centers, parks and streets. Traditional lanterns are almost always red, as this color is believed to attract good luck. Glowing lanterns symbolize "lighting up the future". It is a way for people to pray for a prosperous future and express good wishes for their families. China turns into a continuous street procession, and thousands of lit lanterns scare away evil spirits.
On this day, it is customary to put steamed rice cakes, which stick to the hands, on the altar at home, they are meant for the god (spirit or lord) of the fireplace — Zao Shen (赵申).