Welcoming the Pig Into the New Year

Valeria Arroyo and Jamey Castro

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is celebrated by many people, but how many people actually know about this holiday or festival?

According to Chinese New Year legends, Chinese New Year came about with the fight against “Year,” a mythical beast that would harm animals, people, and their properties on New Year’s Eve. “Year” looked like an ox with the head of a lion and was believed to live in the sea.

When people in China found out that the beast was scared of the color red, fire, and loud sounds, people started to hang beautiful crimson lanterns, posted red Dui Lians, an antithetical couplet which is a pair of lines of poetry written on red paper, and launched fireworks to scare away the beast.

According to www.quora.com, there are about 1.4 billion people who celebrate Spring Festival. It’s by far, the most important holiday in Chinese culture. For 2019, Chinese New Year lands on February 5, 2019, but the festival lasts from February 4, 2019 to February 10, 2019. The Spring Festival has a history of about 4,000 years.

According to www.chinesenewyear.info, it is not clearly known how or when this celebration started, but it is believed to have started during the Shang Dynasty (1766 BC.- 1122 BC.). Others believe that it was during Emperor Yao and Shun’s reign. The Chinese New Year was usually around mid-winter to early spring, but there was no exact date until Emperor Wu found a way to measure these days using China’s lunar calendar.

This Chinese New Year welcomes the 12th animal of the Chinese zodiac: the pig.  

Each year there is a zodiac for an animal from the 12 zodiac animals. According to Chinese myths, the emperor decided to determine the order of the animals by the order of which they arrived to his party.

The pig was the last animal to arrive at the party because he overslept. Other stories say that a wolf destroyed his home and he had to rebuild it before going to the emperor’s party. When the pig arrived, he was the last animal and therefore came in last place.

In Chinese culture, the pig is a symbol of wealth. Their chubby faces, big ears, and beautiful personalities are signs of good fortune as well. Men that are born on the year of the pig will be optimistic, gentle, focused, and determined. Women born this year will be full of excitement. They are easygoing, and they can be very trustworthy.

Many interesting traditions and superstitions go along with this holiday. The Chinese believe that cleaning, showering, haircuts, and using sharp objects before the 5th of February will throw all your luck away. This isn’t allowed until the new year finally comes around, then you can have a whole day of cleansing every bit of your home as a symbol of leaving the past year behind and starting off fresh.

For this tradition, red is obviously an important color. Envelopes that contain prize money are given to family members as a gift. Guess what color the envelope is. Yup, it’s red! It’s very appropriate, especially in weddings and on Chinese New Year. Grandparents are the most likely of all relatives to hand them out to their grandchildren.

Additionally, after Chinese New Year people like to start the year off right. Every member of the family buys new clothes for the new year. Some families buy traditional clothing such as qipaos, a one-piece Chinese dress. Now, most families wear regular Western-style clothing. People tend to wear red clothes to scare away spirits of bad fortunes. After Chinese New Year, people also avoid wearing black or white clothes because they believe it’s a symbol of mourning and death which is not appropriate for this time of year.

Finally, there’s the food! Of course in every holiday there’s always suitable, delicious food to help your stomach to celebrate. On Chinese New Year, each dish has a special meaning to it, whether it represents good luck, good fortune, and/or healthy habits. For example, one of the many dishes that is served in the festival is dumplings. These little balls of dough indicate wealth, and good fortune. Different kinds of fish mean different kinds of flavors, but they all have something in common on such a wonderful holiday, it’s the meaning behind their spot on the table. Eating fish, especially when it’s steamed, would mean to succeed in the upcoming year.