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Chinese New Year, 2011 year of the Rabbit

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Anyone in Last Sparrow Tattoo community celebrate it? If so, how do you partake?

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 1ST

Marking the Chinese New Year, Year of the Rabbit

As we enter the Chinese New Year, the most important and recognized of the traditional Chinese holidays, let us reflect a little on the history and celebration surrounding the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rabbit. Beginning on the first day of the first month on a traditional Chinese calendar, this year’s celebration begins on February 3rd and culminates on February 17th with the beautiful Lantern Festival.

Now before we get into the traditions of the Chinese New Year, let’s cover the fact that this year is the Year of the Rabbit (Hare). First of all, there are 12 animals that are used in naming a Chinese year and therefore those animals are rotated through every 12 years.

The rabbit is the fourth in the series of the twelve animals used in this system and is commonly associated in the earthy branch. Of course, depending on which Year of the Rabbit you were born in would determine whether you were a water, wood, fire, earth or metal rabbit.

If you think about it, the naming of the years has its practicalities in that children (and adults as they begin to get on in years) don’t really need to remember their age, they simply remember what animal/year they were born.

In terms of traditions, the history of the Chinese New Year dates back thousands of years. As legend goes, the ancient beast (Nian) who people believed would devour them on New Year’s Eve, was kept away by people pasting red paper couplets on their doors, lighting torches and sending off firecrackers throughout the night. Nian apparently hated the color red, the light of fire and loud noises. When the people made it safely through the night, they congratulated each other with large celebrations.

Nowadays the preparations start 10 days before the Chinese New Year begins with a full “sweeping of the house” or house cleaning. On New Year’s Eve it is tradition for the family to get together and have a large reunion. A huge feast is served with chicken, fish and many other dishes. It is standard that the fish is left unfinished and saved to bring into the New Year as a sort of blessing for the upcoming year.

New Year’s Day is celebrated with family as well. They begin their morning with red packets being handed out to all un-wed family members. Years ago it was standard to include multiples in the packets of amounts such as $2, $20, $2.20, etc. However, today it isn’t unheard of for people to receive much larger amounts depending on the affluence of the family.

While there are probably many more parts to the celebration of the Chinese New Year, the tradition is to spend time with family. On the final evening of celebration, complete with dragon dance and everything, the Lantern Festival is held signifying the official end of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

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