Chinese Lunar Year of the Horse 2014

Whenever Chinese lunar New Year is mentioned, the first thing that comes to the minds of most people is, “What year is this?” According to Chinese Zodiac Calendar, 2014 is considered as the Year of the Horse which begins on January 31, 2014, and ends on February 18, 2015.

Paper cutting welcomes the year of the Horse 2014.

Paper cutting welcomes the year of the Horse 2014.

The Chinese zodiac is represented by 12 animals; and each New Year ushers in a new zodiac animal. The 12-year cycle of animals are, in order, the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

Chinese zodiac calendar

Zodiac animals in Chinese lunar calendar

The Horse is the seventh among 12 animal signs which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. In Chinese astrology, Horse year is considered a fortunate year that brings luck and good things. People born in Horse years (2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930, 1918, 1906) are bright, cheerful, popular, and fun loving.

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Chinese Ghost Festival

The Ghost Festival, also known as Zhongyuan Jie in Taoism or the Ullabana in Buddhism, is a traditional Chinese festival celebrated on the 15th night of the seventh lunar month. In Chinese tradition, the seventh lunar month is known as “Ghost Month”, when the Gates of Hell are opened up and the ghosts are free to walk the earth; and as the ghosts on the 15th night are in high gear, the 15th day of this month is called “Ghost Day”. In 2013, the Ghost Festival falls on August 21.

Chinese Ghost Festival

People offer prayers to their deceased relatives

For Chinese people, Ghost Festival is for assoiling and sacrificing the ghost of the Hell. At that day, the dead would return to visit their living relatives. Tradition states that Family members offer prayers to their deceased relatives, burn joss sticks, paper money and offer food. Almost as important as honoring the ancestors, offerings to ghosts without families must be made, so that they will not cause you any harm.

Another popular activity of the festival is to flow water lanterns on lakes or rivers. People use these floating water lanterns to direct the lost ghosts back to hell. For the “Ghost Month”, there is a river lantern festival held in Ziyuan Country. The locals float water lanterns down the river in remembrance of past relatives and perform songs hoping for a fruitful harvest.

Ziyuan River Lantern Festival

River lanterns were seen on the Zijiang River in Ziyuan County of Guilin

Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival, or Duanwu Jie, is traditionally celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese lunar calendar – and hence is also known as Double Fifth Day. In 2013, the festival falls on June 12. The main celebrations include dragon boat racing, eating Zongzi and drinking realgar wine, etc.

Origin
The Dragon Boat Festival dates back to earliest times and a number of legends explain its origins. The best known story centers on a patriotic court official named Qu Yuan, of the State of Chu during the Warring States Period more than 2,000 years ago. Qu tried to warn the emperor of an increasingly corrupt government, but ended up being exiled. The State of Chu was soon annexed by the State of Qin. Qu Yuan, in despair, plunged himself into the Miluo River and drowns, one the fifth day of the fifth month in 278 BC. At the news of Qu Yuan’s suicide, the lcoal people raced out in boats to look for his body. And, glutinous rice balls (zong zi) were thrown into the water, so that the fish wouldn’t eat Qu Yuan’s body. This later on turned into the custom of dragon boat racing and eating Zongzi.
Qu Yuan

Celebration
Dragon boat racing is an indispensable part of the festival, held all over the country. In the contest, competing teams row their boats forward to a drumbeat racing; the winner is the first team to grab a flag hung at the end of the course.
Dragon boat contest

The traditional food of the Dragon Boat Festival is zong zi – glutinous rice balls filled with egg, beans, walnuts, dates, mushrooms, and/or meat. The zong zi, once prepared, are wrapped inĀ  bamboo leaves and steamed.
Zong zi

This year, Longsheng will hold its International Longsheng Rice Terrace Culture Tourism Festival from June 10 to June 13, with the highlights of dragon boat contest. The event attracts dragon boat troupes from 11 districts and counties in Guilin area, besides the 15 local group of Longsheng county. Moreover, various performances and competitions of Yao, Miao and Zhuang ethnic groups will be available during the toursim festival.

Lantern Festival

Yuanxiao Festival, also known as the Lantern Festival, an important traditional Chinese festival, which is on the 15th of the first lunar month. It marks the end of 15-day Chinese new year celebration. The date in the Western calendar changes annually; and in 2012, the festival falls on February 24.

The first month of the Chinese lunar calendar is called yuan month, and in ancient times people called night xiao. On the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, it is the first night to see a full moon after the New Year. Thus, the day is called “Yuanxiao Festival”. Yuanxiao, named after the festival, is an indispensable dish for celebration. There are small dumpling balls made of glutinous rice flour stuffed with sugar fillings. In south China, the food is also called “Tangyuan”. The name has a similar pronunciation with “tuanyuan”, meaning reunion. Chinese people believe the round shape of the balls and the bowl where they are served, comes to symbolize family togetherness, and that eating yuanxiao may bring the family happiness and good luck in the new year.

Tangyuan,Chinese festival food

Tangyuan, or glutinous rice balls

According to Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate. Also, Chinese people celebrate it as Lantern Festival. On the night, people go to streets with a variety of lanterns under the full moon. The bright lanterns were symbolic of good luck and hope. Children will hold self-made or bought lanterns to stroll with on the streets, extremely excited. A fun activity for all ages is to solve riddles attached to lanterns. The person who can answer gets a small prize.

Lantern Festival

Visitors walk in a lanterns-decorated street to appreciate.

As the time goes by, more activities are added on the Lantern Festival, like dragon dance, lion dance, land boat dance, yangge dance, and walking on stilts, etc. people get all their families united in the joyful atmosphere.

Chinese New Year Celebration

The Spring Festival, which begins on February 10 this year, marks the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year. It serves as an important occasion for family reunions, just like Christmas in the West. According to tradition, Chinese New Year celebration formally starts on Lunar New Year’s Eve and ends with the Lantern Festival that falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month.

Chinese New Year Celebration

Family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve

A family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve is a most important event of celebration. On this day, all family members gather in reunion at a round table filled with traditonal dishes. A dish consisting of fish will appear on the tables of all Chinese families, which symbolizes surplus or success. After dinner, people make dumplings to eat around midnight in northern China. In the south, it is customary to make a glutinous new year cake. At midnight, people set off firecrackers to scare off evil spirits and welcome the new year.

The first day of Chinese New Year is a time to honor senior members of the family. After getting up in the morning, people typically wear new clothes from head to toe and pay visits to their parents or grandparents. Those who are married give red envelopes containing cash to youngsters as a form of blessing.

Chinese New Year Celebration

paying New Year visit

On the second day, married woman, along with her husband, pay respect to her birth parent and relatives.

The fifth day is regarded as the birthday of the God of Wealth. People stay home to welcome the God of Wealth into their homes. In some pleaces, business people re-open their businesses and let off firecrackers in the attempt to get the attention of the God of Wealth, for a good fortune of the new year.

Chinese New Year Celebration

Lantern Festival

The fifteenth day of the new year is celebrated as Yuanxiao Festival or the Lantern Festival, when people eat yuanxiao, sweet glutinous rice balls brewed in a soup, and families walk the streets carrying lighted lanterns. The day brings the 15-day Chinese new year celebration to an end.