Feb 14th, 2019, 10:00 AM

2019: The Year of the Pig

By Chanet Smith
Image Credit: Remy Smith
The Chinese Lunar Year: How is it celebrated?

Even though China has moved over to the Gregorian calendar like the rest of the world, Chinese New Year or the Lunar New Year is a celebration of the new year based on the Lunar calendar. Chinese culture steams from ancient myths, superstitions, Earth elements, symbolism, and ancestry. The New Year is no different. Filled with traditions, presents, colors, and decorations are to signify a year of health, wealth, and good fortune, the Chinese New Year is a fifteen-day holiday with the first five days reserved for the family as a national holiday.

Image Credit: Rebecca Jo-Rushdy

In a series of rituals and celebrations, numerous countries in Asia and people around the world gather to celebrate this holiday starting the night of Chinese New Year’s Eve. The new year of the Lunar calendar changes every year and as the cities prepare to shut down all the stores for the next five days, people rush to buy their last minute necessities. In the temples, people are lighting incense and bringing food for the Gods and ancestors. This is to bring in the new year with good luck. A massive dinner of traditional foods is cooked with all relatives. Generally, Chinese New Year is celebrated with the father’s side of the family first, and the following day is reserved for the mother’s side of the family. The days to follow include more of the family tree for gatherings and dinners. The most fireworks in the world are lit off on Chinese New Year. It is a celebration for everyone to set off fireworks, firecrackers, sparklers, etc. despite the congestion of the cities.

2019—The Year of the Pig (Zhū)

Chinese zodiac follows a cycle of twelve animals that are in rotation every year. Of them, the pig is the 12th. Pigs in Chinese culture are symbols of wealth and fortune because of their chubbiness. People born within this year are said to have specific traits and characteristics. Year of the Pig is to be social, energetic, and thoughtful people. There is a lot of pre-determination of people that go into Chinese zodiac and Year of the Pig.

Image Credit: Public Domain Images/Google Images

Why all the red?

Red in Chinese culture symbolizes fortune and joy. It is also the color to correspond with one of the Earth’s natural elements, fire. Red is used during holidays and family gatherings because it is supposed to be good luck for everyone. Auspicious calligraphy and poetry are hung up around the house on the doors, on the ceilings, even hanging from plant’s leaves. Red lanterns and Chinese knots can also be seen everywhere in the cities. This way, inside and outside of the home will be in good fortune. Since it is the year of the pig, people will buy ‘pig-themed’ decorations as well.

All the food during the celebrations is supposed to symbolize something to them. For example, noodles should be long to represent a long life ahead or pomegranates are eaten to symbolize fertility with all the bright red seeds. In Chinese culture, elaborate dinners are served ‘family-style’ so you can eat a little bit of everything. In most homes, there will always be a soup, fish, meat, and seafood like shrimps or octopus, and vegetables which are served over rice.

Image Credit: Remy Smith

Throughout the first five days of the holiday, there are many exchanges that happen out of tradition. The biggest being the red envelope (hóng bāo). Elders are to give younger children a red envelope with money in it. Many adults also give to their siblings and sons will give it to their parents. Kids are to start giving red envelope when they begin their adult life, even if the amount is small. When a baby is born, the ‘baby’ is given the reddest envelopes to celebrate their first year of life. Oranges and tangerines are laid around the house for display or to exchange. They symbolize wealth and good luck.

Image Credit: Remy Smith

Chinese New Year is the biggest and longest holiday in China and for many surrounding countries. It is five days of the year reserved specifically for family, traditions, and celebration. Days of preparation and saving start before the holiday even. It is totally normal for stores and restaurants to be completely closed, as it is bad luck to be out in public on these five days. The Year of the Pig is their biggest celebration until next year, the Year of the Rat!