The Chinese calendar year follows the cycles of the moon. The start of every new cycle marks the start of a new month. As such, the dates (according to the Western calendar) tend to vary every year. The easiest way to determine the dates for specific Chinese festivals is to get a Chinese calendar. A lot of Chinese stores give these out for free. Alternatively, you can calculate the dates using a Western-Chinese calendar calculator. There is also a lot more information on that site about how the Chinese calendar year goes.
A little like the 12 days of Christmas, there are 15 days of Chinese New Year. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the most significant day of Chinese New Year is the first day. However, there are other interesting dates to take note of as well. For the uninitiated, I’ve briefly summarised them below:
Chinese New Year Eve: Reunion dinner.
1st Day: Serve tea to elders and visit father’s relatives.
2nd Day: Visit friends and other family, which can continue on the following days after as well.
7th Day: This day is known as “Human Day” or rather “Everyone’s Birthday”. Most people will head out for dinner to celebrate – as we discovered when we tried to have dinner at one of our usual restaurants only to discover it was packed out and there weren’t any free tables.
8th Day: The Hokkien new year. Okay, I’m not really an expert on this, so I’m not quite sure about the explanation but this is what I understand. Among the Chinese, there are different groups that speak different dialects. I suppose it is a little like the different clans among the American Indians. The legend states that some evil spirit or god or warlord (I’m not sure which) was coming to wipe out the Hokkien clan. Luckily they received early warning about this and they hid in the sugar cane plantations, thereby escaping the massacre. This happened over Chinese New Year so they missed out on celebrating. When they came out of hiding, it was the 8th day of the New Year. So ever since then, the Hokkien New Year has been celebrated on the 8th day. More pictures to follow soon. Here’s a post from the year we got married – back when I understood very little about these traditions.
15th Day: Chap Goh Mei. This marks last day of Chinese New Year. I understand it is also the Chinese Valentine’s day where single women would throw Mandarin oranges into the river where hopefully it will flow down stream and be picked up by their true love. Or something like that.