The Year of the Horse
Chinese New Year 2014 will be the Year of the Horse according to the Chinese Zodiac. Chinese New Year is also known as Chinese Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. In the Chinese zodiac, which consists of twelve animal signs, the horse is the seventh sign. Chinese culture dictates that the horse is a symbol of speed, class, perseverance and nobility. Chinese New Year 2014 begins on the day of the new moon which is the first day of the first month of the year according to the Chinese calendar and ends on the full moon 15 days later culminating in a traditional Lantern Festival. In 2014 begins on January 31, 2014 and culminates in Lantern Festival on February 18th, 2014 ending the Chinese New Year celebrations.
In relation to the Chinese zodiac, legends and mythology play a huge part. Chinese star signs are a blend of horoscopes, astrology and astronomy. The Chinese believe that the sun, moon and stars exert influences over people’s moral conduct. Legend has it that the reason for assigning twelve animals, is based on the fact that only twelve animals came to bid Buddha farewell before he could depart from earth. Therefore Chinese New Year 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, Chinese New Year 2013 is the Year of the Snake and Chinese New Year 2014 will be the Year of the Horse.
Chinese New Year Traditions
Chinese New Year is celebrated not only in Mainland China, but in Taiwan, Singapore and many other places in the world - wherever there is a significant Chinese population.
Chinese New Year celebrations would be incomplete without decorations. The theme colors are generally red and gold; red symbolizing happiness and gold symbolizing wealth. People adorn their houses with beautiful red and gold decorations in the form of flowers, paper lanterns, wall hangings, paper cutouts and plants; instill life in tired looking doors with a new coat of red paint, and wear clothing of these colors.
The Chinese lunar new year provides people with an opportunity to feel the renewal of life and the return of spring. People hang spring couplets to symbolize blessings of good fortune, prosperity, health, happiness, wealth and a long, good life. The couplets consist of three pieces, two long ones that are hung vertically on either side of the door, and one short one that is hung horizontally on top of the door.
Chinese New Year 2014 will see people adorning their doors and windows with Chinese New Year decorations that include auspicious figures of children, typically a girl and a boy holding up “lucky” signs as symbols of good luck for the New Year that has just begun.
Part of the Chinese New Year celebrations will include the observation of a number of traditions. The tradition of ‘turning over a new leaf’ is one such celebration. It occurs on the first day of the first moon in the lunar calendar. This celebration is a time for family reunions, eating a special Chinese New Year’s eve dinner and highlighting family ties.
On the last day of the old year, kitchens in every home become beehives of activity as people begin preparing food for the next two days. The reason for preparing food in advance is because the Chinese put away all sharp instruments like knives, so the luck will not be cut on Chinese New Year’s Day. For this same reason, people get their hair cut before Chinese New Year dawns.
On Chinese New Years’ Eve families will gather together for a feast that will likely include such foods as fish, pork, duck, chicken, noodles and sweet delicacies. Many of these foods are symbolic such as noodles which symbolize long life. Families may end the night by setting off fireworks. Some Chinese households will stay awake throughout the New Year’s Eve night to welcome in the New Year of the Horse. They will often play mahjong and other games to entertain themselves.
On this night, or the next morning, young children will wish their parents and other elders in the family a happy new year and will receive a red envelope. Red envelopes are a traditional gift most often given at Chinese New Year and at wedding. The red envelopes contain money in amounts considered to be auspicious. For example 400 or 4000 in currency would never be given as the number four has a similar sound to the word for death in Mandarin Chinese. During Chinese New Year, red envelopes are most often given by parents and other elders to their younger children. Once the children are grown and their parents are elderly this is often reversed. Then the children will return home for the New Year celebration and give red envelopes to their parents.
As part of the preparation for celebrating Chinese New Year 2014, people will finish their shopping well in advance as all the stores close down, clean their houses, sweep the grounds, bid farewell to the ‘Kitchen God’ and get everything organized to say farewell to 2013 - the Year of the Snake and welcome a new year, 2014 the Year of the Horse into their homes and lives.