While the rest of the world celebrates the new year on the first of January, the Chinese New Year varies with each year. Because the Chinese calendar follows both lunar and solar cycles, the first new moon of the new year is what marks the start of Chinese New Year. Celebrations last for 15 days starting on New Year’s Eve and ending on the first full moon of the year. This year marks the 4,712th Chinese New Year, which begins on January 31st.
The 15 day celebration of the New Year is not without its traditions and rituals. The first day is dedicated to paying homage to family ancestors who have passed away. Family members gather and put together a large feast in honor of their ancestors, abstaining from eating meat to ensure that all will live a long and happy life.
Each day afterwards has its own purpose and activity, many of which involve dining with friends and family. Everyone stays home on the fifth day to welcome the God of Wealth. Leaving home on that day will ensure bad luck, both to the person leaving home and the person being visited. Temples are visited between the sixth and tenth days to pray for good health and fortune.
The climax of the 15 days of celebration is the Lantern Festival, which is prepared for during the day before. Lanterns decorated for the occasion are hung to light up temples and carried by those who come to participate in the parade. Many Lantern Festivals feature a dragon dance, in which a dragon made of colorful silk, paper, and bamboo is made to dance by young men down the streets for all to behold. Some parades even have floats to add to the fun of the occasion.
The Halton Region Chinese Canadian Association prepares a banquet in celebration of the Chinese New Year. This year the banquet will be held on February the 8th starting at 6 pm. The banquet includes a 10 course meal, live music, a silent auction, and many other activities, including a lion dance. The proceeds from the banquet are used to fund mental health programs for seniors.
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