The 15 Days of Chinese New Year
(Days 01 - 07)
The Chinese New Year begins on the new moon on the first day of the first lunar month of the year. It continues for 15 days through the start of the full moon. Each of these 15 days has special traditions associated with it, as well as an animal birthday. According to Chinese legend, N�wa, the goddess who created the earth over a seven-day period, also created different animals on specific days, which is why each of the first seven days of the New Year is also known as the birthday of a certain animal.
First day: Birthday of the Chicken
The first day of the festival represents a fresh start and a new opportunity for wealth and happiness. Family gatherings are the main focus of the day, with visits to the oldest and youngest members of the family to wish them a Happy New Year. Young children receive their red envelopes, considered an omen of good fortune for the year to come.
Also on the First Day, and throughout the festival, guests are welcomed with tea and sweets, including sugared fruits, which are thought to hasten a sweet year. Even the serving tray has symbolic value: A round tray symbolizes togetherness while serving eight portions is considered a lucky. On occasion, a host will put out nine servings, which represents wealth and family unity.
Refraining from eating meat on the First Day is common in order to enhance longevity. It also honors a Buddhist tradition that nothing should be killed on the First Day. A traditional meal is the vegetarian dish known as Buddha's Delight, with a symbolic 18 ingredients -- representing the hope for happiness and prosperity.
Second day: Birthday of Dog
On the second day of the New Year, the God of Wealth, Tsai Shin, is believed to leave earth for heaven. In order to hasten his journey, people eat wontons and wish for a prosperous year. On this day, married women visit their parents, while the first day is dedicated to the husband's family. Since this is also the birthday of the dog, pets and even stray dogs are well fed on this day.
Third day: Birthday of Pig / Fourth Day: Birthday of the Sheep
The Third and Fourth Days of the New Year are dedicated to honoring deceased ancestors and visiting their grave sites. If a family has lost an immediate relative within the last three years, they will not go out to visit friends, waiting instead until the 5th day. Many traditional business owners keep their shops closed through the first four days of the New Year, out of respect to their dead, reopening only on the 5th day. Others will reopen their businesses on the 3rd day, with special prayers to the ancestors to bless their stores with a prosperous year.
Fifth day: Birthday of Ox and Cattle
The Fifth Day of the New Year is dedicated to the God of Wealth. Visits to friends and colleagues are resumed, although many prefer to stick close to home, for fear that they might miss a visit from the God of Wealth. All businesses are re-opened by this day, welcoming in the God of Wealth to bless their operations in the coming year with prosperity.
Sixth day: Birthday of Horse
On the Sixth Day of the New Year, more visits are made to relatives and friends, along with a trip to the temple.
Seventh Day: Birthday of Man
The Seventh Day of the New Year is known as the Birthday of Man or Everybody's Birthday. On this day, the goddess of N�wa sculpted man from yellow clay and breathed life into its form. In traditional China, individual birthdays were not celebrated; rather a year was added to one's age on the the 7th day of the New Year. Today, in urban areas of China, individual birthdays are increasingly common, although the 7th Day tradition persists in more rural areas. Whether or not one celebrates his or her own birthday, the Seventh Day is still an especially celebratory day in the New Year festival, with family gatherings to eat sweet cakes. It is also common to serve vegetarian or fish dishes on the 7th day, since they are considered valuable to good health.
The 15 Days of Chinese New Year: 08th - 15th Days
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