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chinese new year

Closely associated with the observance of agricultural harvests, traditions, worship and cultures, Chinese New Year has endeared through the generations and remains the most important and significant celebrations in the Chinese calendar system.

The first adoption of Chinese New Year started with the concept of the Year, a mark of time to symbolize the start of a new cycle. It was first introduced during the Shang Dynasty (around 1600BC - 1100BC). As a gesture of gratitude, people offered food, clothes and harvests to gods and ancestors by rituals and worships while seeking protection and blessings for a new year.

By the Zhou Dynasty (around 1100BC - 771BC), spiritualism forms its roots and people started to personify and enshrine dieties. Rituals became elaborate and ruling over the kingdom was the wise King Wen (文王)who was an ardent practitioner of forecasting and prediction. The concept of the Kitchen God and the God of Wealth was born.

The Three Kingdoms of Han, Wei and Jin Dynasties (AD24 - AD420) was a troubling period and until then, Chinese New Year was celebrated randomly around the Winter Solstice. Emperor WuDi of the Han Dynasty declared the first day of the first lunar calendar as the start of the Chinese New Year. New customs were introduced including the staying up past the midnight hour to usher in the energies of the new year.

When the Tang Dynasty (AD618 - AD907) arrived, it was a time of peace, flourishing trade, intricate art scenes, cultural dances and folk music. Social entertainment, refinement of cultures, obervation of traditions and the educational values of all practices were brought to a brand new level. It turned Chinese New Year into the major and most significant event of the year.

It was not until the Song Dynasty (AD960 - AD1279) when gunpowder was invented by the Chinese, that firecrackers found its way and made a huge impact as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Firecrackers found its way to frighten away the beasts of the old year and to usher in the new year with boisterous energies, sight, smell and sound. It remained a highlight of the Chinese New Year celebrations until the early seventies when many Asian governments banned the rampant firing of crackers to stem out dangers to lives and fire hazards. Today, parts of Malaysia, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan still sparingly and under supervision, allow the practice on certain days during the festivities.

The Qing Dynasty (AD1644 - AD1911) named this festival Yuan Dan (元旦)signifying the beginning of a new spring at the break of a new dawn to start the new year. Celebrations extended to gathering of family members, visits by friends, relatives and close ones. Exchange of gifts became the norm. The Lion Dance and the Dragon Dance were born.

Despite its long history and evolving past, Chinese New Year maintains its charm and significance in the heart of every Chinese person by origin. Even with the diversity and massive relocation by work or by choice, this is one date that brings home the true meaning of family bond, forgiveness, love, sharing, respect, reflection of one's deeds and the promise of new hope. Chinese all over the world reserve this day for reunion, rewarding the less abled with gifts and red packets of symbolic cash, the consumption of all things sweet such as the the rice cake, the mandarin oranges, the love letters (a sweet rolled up bisquit), the warmth of the steamboat dinner, the show of support, the laughter and the huddling together as family and loved ones to face the world of the new year with bravery and optimism.


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