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Celebrate the Spring Festival
Chinatown
Spring Festival is the oldest and most important festival in China
Known as the Chinese New Year in the west, the Spring Festival is the oldest and most important festival in China.

To celebrate the Year of the Ram, we take a look at the festival...
SEE ALSO

BBC Tees
Features

Chinese New Year

Our special feature looks at how Chinese New Year is celebrated and why, tells you why animals are associated with the years, helps you find your birth year animal and profiles those born in the Year of the Ram.

Celebrate the Spring Festival
How is the Chinese New Year celebrated?

Chinese Lunar Calendar
We explain how the Chinese Lunar Calendar works and help you find your birth year animal.

2003: Year of the Ram
2003 is the Year of the Ram but what are people born in this year really like?

Share your
celebration plans
Has your class at school been making paper lanterns and red packets? What are your plans for the big day. Share your thoughts in our Have Your Say forum.

WEB LINKS

Chinatown online
The insider's guide to the Chinese community and all things Chinese in Britain. Plus, a comprehensive guide to the Chinese New Year.

University of Victoria : Guide to Chinese New Year
A comprehensive guide to the celebrations.

Chinese New Year
@ Kids Domain
Crafts and stories with a Chinese New Year theme.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

FACTS

Bullet The Chinese New Year is celebrated on 1 February, 2003.

Bullet This year is the year of the ram - year 4699 by the Chinese calendar.

Bullet Kung hei fat choy is the traditional New Year greeting.

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Chinese New Year banner

Like all Chinese festivals, the date of the new year is determined by the lunar and solar calendar rather than the Western (Gregorian) calendar.

This means that the date of the holiday varies from late January to mid February.

In 2003, Chinese New Year is on 1 February. It marks the first day in the Year of the Ram and Year 4699 by the Chinese calendar.

Kung hei fat choy is the traditional New Year greeting.

Festival food

The festival celebrates the earth coming back to life when ploughing and sowing can begin, so food plays an important part.

Ken Hom
Food plays an important part of the Spring Festival

Much of the food consumed for the festival has symbolic meaning.

For example, the names of some foods sound similar to characters with lucky connotations, while the shape or colour of other foods is symbolic of things such as happiness, prosperity and good fortune.

For example, kumquat plants, which are popular presents, have little golden fruits and the Chinese pronunciation for kumquat sounds the same as gold and gold is lucky.

Preparations

Even though the climax of the Chinese New Year, Nian, lasts only two or three days, preparations start almost a month before.

Houses are thoroughly cleaned to sweep away any bad luck, debts are repaid, hair cut and new clothes bought.

Rice

Eating rice soup is considered to be purifying the body for the new year ahead

Doors and window frames are repainted, usually red, and then decorated with paper scrolls.

At this time of cold weather, warming foods are eaten like hot rice soup containing nuts, dried lotus seeds, red beans and dried dates.

Eating rice soup is also considered to be purifying the body for the new year ahead.

Kitchen Gods' Day

On Kitchen Gods' Day, the 24th day of the month before, it is time to appease the kitchen gods before they head up to heaven where they report on the family's activities.

Traditions include burning images of the kitchen gods to symbolise their departure - brushing honey or sugar on to their lips before burning is meant to improve your chances of their saying sweet things about you.

New Year's Eve

On New Year's Eve houses are brightly lit and families gather together for a large meal.

The traditional food depends on whether you are from south China - sticky-sweet glutinous rice pudding called nian gao - or the north - steamed dumpling called jiaozi (or djiaozi).

Most people stay up all night celebrating and at midnight fireworks and firecrackers are set off to frighten away evil spirits.

New Year

Red packet
Red packets contain sweet surprises

On the day itself, an ancient custom called Hong Bao, meaning Red Packet, takes place.

Children wake up early to find the small red envelopes containing sweets or money under their pillows and married couples give unmarried adults small packets of money and then the new year greetings begin.

Lantern Festival

In China today, the public holiday lasts for three days, but traditionally the festivities continue until the 15th day of the lunar month when the Lantern Festival is held.

Everywhere is decorated with a variety of different sized lanterns and there is music and dancing in the streets.

One special feature is the dragon dance, where a huge dragon head and body, supported by a team of dancers weaves its way around the streets collecting money from houses on its route.

Once again, food plays its part and yuanxioa is served.

This is a sweet or savoury dumpling made from glutinous rice flour that is either boiled or fried.

Bullet Find out more about the Chinese Lunar Calendar and the animal ruling your birth year>>

 

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