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7 reasons Irish people need to start celebrating Chinese New Year

It’s the Year of the Monkey. Cheeky.

CHINESE NEW YEAR is almost upon us and if you’ve never celebrated it before, this is your (and the Monkey’s) year.

Chinese New Year (7-13 February) is one of the biggest celebrations in China with a week’s worth of countrywide fireworks, events and performances and the festival is becoming more and more popular over here too.

If you think you need a reason to join in the celebrations, fear not – here are seven to get you into the spirit of things.

Gung hay fat choy!

1. The decorations

Source: mac_ivan via Flickr/CC

Red is an auspicious colour in China and holidays are usually celebrated with red decorations such as lanterns, cut outs, scrolls and New Year paintings. Gold is also a popular colour as it represents wealth and good fortune. As it’s the year of the Monkey too, the little guy will be on lots of those decorations too.

Short poems about spring are written on red paper in gold or black ink and hung outside doors and windows.

2. The stories

Source: IQRemix via Flickr/CC

Storytelling is a big tradition and part of the New Year celebrations. The story behind the celebrations is The Legend of the Monster Nian. Nian was a monster who ate livestock, crops and even people on New Year’s Eve. To put a stop to him, an old wise man figured out Nian was afraid of the colour red and loud noises.

Firecrackers are a big part of the celebrations (to scare Nian away), and people also leave food outside their door for him. The red lanterns and scrolls are hung on windows and doors to stop Nian from coming in.

3. The New Year gala

Source: IQRemix via Flickr/CC

The Chinese television network, CCTV, shows the New Year gala every year and it’s become a custom for Chinese families to watch it during dinner. Over 700 million people watch it every year.

The gala will have traditional, folk and pop performances by China’s best performers and acrobats.

You can watch live-streaming of the event here.

4. The eating

Source: Edsel L via Flickr/CC

Delicious food is also a huge part of the celebrations – and who doesn’t like a tasty, traditional meal?

In China, New Year’s Eve is when all family members come together and have a family feast with traditional fare being dumplings (for the north of China) and sticky rice cake (in the south).

5. The presents

Source: Ksionic via Flickr/CC

Another great reason to celebrate Chinese New Year is the presents. Children are usually given red envelopes containing money which is meant to bring good luck. Anything with red or gold on it is always welcome.

There are also instructions on what not to give as presents such as knives (indicates cutting off a relationship), clocks or watches (symbolises running out of time) or anything in a four-pack – the number four is considered unlucky.

6. An excuse for new clothes

Source: paularps via Flickr/CC

Chinese people buy all new clothes for the New Year – whether they need them or not. They put on new clothes on the first day of the new year. Of course, red features very highly in the choosing of the new clothes – so if that’s not your colour… there’s always gold.

7. Take part in some events

Source: IQRemix via Flickr/CC

There will be plenty of celebrations happening around the country for Chinese New Year 2016. In Dublin, there is a dedicated Chinese New Year Festival with events happening in the Chester Beatty Library, a Spring Festival Fair at the Chq building and a poetry reading of famous Chinese poems at Connolly station (with poems displayed on Darts and stations throughout February).

Around the country there is a Chinese New Year meetup in Galway with the Galway Social Club, a blessing event with candles in Cork and a whole day of events in Belfast on Sunday 21 February.

Celebrate Chinese New Year at the Amoy street party in Castle Market Street, Dublin on 8 February 2016. There will be lots of cooking demonstrations to show you just how easy cooking authentic Chinese dishes is. Gung hay fat choy! (That’s happy new year in Cantonese). 

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