Preparing for the New Year celebrations, people clean their homes, buy gifts, clothing, food and items to decorate their house. Chinese people put New Year pictures on their walls and decorate their homes with red papers and couplets for happiness, wealth and longevity, and hang beautiful red lanterns.
In the evening of the Spring Festival Eve, many people set off fireworks and firecrackers, hoping to cast away bad luck and bring in good luck. Many people will wear new clothes and send Chinese New Year greetings to each other. People joyfully participate in various festivities, such as beating drums and striking gongs, dragon and lion dances.
The Lion Dance
It is a time to reunite with and visit relatives. A festive dinner is held on New Year’s Eve where families will gather to celebrate, normally in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year’s Eve dinner is very large and traditionally includes meaty dishes, such as pork, chicken and fish. Most reunion dinners also feature a communal hot pot to signify the family gathering for the meal. Meals on this date have a big significance, certain foods are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness, and good fortune.
During the dinner family members exchange red envelops, which often contain money in certain numbers that represent good luck.
The first day of Chinese New Year is a time for younger people to honor their elders, families will visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended families, usually their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. The second day of the Chinese New Year is the time when married daughters visit their birth parents, relatives and close friends. Some believe that the second day is also the birthday of all dogs and give them special treats.
Most employees in China have at least seven days off work to celebrate the Spring Festival. However, the festival lasts for 15 days, from the Chinese New Year Eve to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. Various traditional customs and activities are held during the Lantern Festival that appeal to people of different ages, including watching lanterns and fireworks, guessing lantern riddles, performing folk dances, and eating yuanxiao (a rice ball stuffed with different fillings).
The Chinese believe that while red is a symbol of happiness, gold is a symbol of wealth. Traditionally, red envelopes are passed out during the Chinese New Year’s celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors and children. Red envelops almost always contain money and, sometimes, chocolate. Interestingly, the amount of money in the red packets should always be an even number, as odd numbers are associated with money given during funerals. The numbers six and eight are considered lucky so they are commonly found in the red envelopes.
Small gifts, usually of food or sweets are also presented to friends and relatives during Chinese New Year, for example, oranges cakes, biscuits, chocolates, candies, or other similar gifts.
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It has been announced that, during February, the following visa application centres and consulates will be closed on some days due to national holidays:
Chinese Visa Application Centre
– Monday 11th February 2013 until Wednesday 13th February 2013
– Monday 11th February 2013 until Tuesday 12th February 2013
– Monday 11th February 2013 until Friday 15th February 2013
These closures could have an effect on visa processing times so please be aware of this if you are planning on using these services.