“May your happiness be without limit!”
This is one of the traditional greetings during the Chinese New Year, which is the longest and most important celebration of the Chinese calendar. The holiday’s origin comes from a centuries-old legend about a beast called the Nian, which used to come every year to eat the village’s livestock, crops, and even children. The villagers discovered that the Nian was afraid of the color red, so they began to hang red lanterns and decorations on their houses for protection. The loud noise of fireworks also frightened the Nian away, so fireworks are a part of the Chinese New Year festivities to this day.
Chinese families typically give their houses a thorough cleaning just before the New Year in order to sweep away bad fortune. On New Year’s Eve, the whole family gathers for a meal that includes vegetables, dumplings, oranges, and sweets. Children are given red envelopes with money inside; the amount of money should be an even number for good luck.
Lion dances and dragon dances are often performed during the Chinese New Year. In China, the dragon is respected for its power and wisdom. Up to 50 dancers carry a colorful dragon on poles and perform choreographed movements to the sound of drums and cymbals.
The Chinese New Year ends with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day. Families walk the streets carrying lighted lanterns, and sweet rice balls are eaten with the hope for a good life.
greetings – a way to say “hi” to someone
legend – a traditional story that has been passed down for generations
beast – an animal (usually a fierce animal)
livestock – farm animals like cows and sheep
crops – food that is grown (rice, corn, vegetables, fruits, etc)
thorough – very complete
dumplings – meat or vegetables inside a ball of dough (see picture below)
choreographed – planned (in the case of a dance)