Each year at the turn of the lunisolar Chinese calendar, celebrants gather for a festival that remains one of the most significant social and economic holidays for those of Chinese descent. According to History.com, Chinese New Year is a time to honor household and heavenly deities and ancestors. It’s also a spring festival in which people pray for a good harvest and spend time with family and friends.
It’s unclear when Chinese New Year celebrations originated in China, but some historians believe it evolved from the year-end religious ceremony during the Shang Dynasty (1766 to 1122 BCE). Others date it back even further.
Legends also surround the origins of the celebration. According to tales passed on through generations, Chinese New Year started with a fight against a mythical beast that looked like an ox with a lion’s head. Called “The Year,” this beast would emerge from its watery abode to harm animals, people and properties, but feared fire, loud sounds and the color red. That is why the Chinese will post banners of duilian (couplets of poetry), participate in parades and shoot fireworks off in commemoration of the holiday.
According to the travel information group, China Highlights, the Spring Festival, known as Chinese New Year in the western hemisphere, is an official public holiday in China. Many Chinese people will have seven days off from work to celebrate.
In addition to fireworks, dragon dances and ancestor worship
are part of many celebrations. Temple fairs may offer traditional performances, representing such events as an emperor’s wedding. Snacks and other foods not typically consumed the rest of the year are offered.
Red, of course, is a primary color for decorating and celebrating as it’s considered to be a lucky color. Red lanterns are hung, and red images of prosperity are posted on official buildings.
This year will be the Year of the Monkey, according to the Chinese zodiac. Celebrations will begin on February 8, 2016, and the year will continue through January 27, 2017. The monkey is thought to be a clever animal, and those born under this sign are considered intelligent.