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Holiday Tradition: Celebrating the Chinese New Year

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The year is filled with all sorts of special celebrations and holiday traditions. Today, January 23, 2012 is the first day of the lunar New Year in China and the year of Dragon. The first day of the Chinese New Year begins at midnight on January 23rd. This holiday is celebrated by billions of people all around the world.

For China, this is one of their most important holidays. It’s a celebration that lasts for 15 days, culminating with the Lantern Festival. Each year is associated with one of twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac. For 2012, it’s the Year of the Dragon.

Chinese New Year Fireworks

The Chinese New year is all about family. New Year's Day children are given red envelopes filled with money. The money usually comes with a wish to be fast and clever. The money is used to buy their favorite things, which probably include fireworks for the big celebration. In the past, it has been said that fireworks were set off to ward off evil spirits. Today, fireworks are set off just for fun and celebration. Fireworks are set off all over the cities. Molten iron is also melted for a huge fireworks display. Homes are decorated with symbols and the color red to ward off evil spirits, and lanterns are made and placed in ponds after being lit one by one.

Chinese New Year Feast

For the New Year's holiday, cooking is serious business.  A huge feast is prepared with the whole family taking part in the process. Dumplings are one of the most important foods eaten on this day. They can be filled with chives and minced pork. White radish, lotus root, pork, and cabbage are prepared to make a delicious stew. Fish, which stands for plenty, is also prepared.  The fish symbolizes that there will be plenty to eat throughout the upcoming year. The fish is dusted with flour and cut in a special way so as to hold loads of delicious sauce. Rice pudding is also prepared and can be topped with jelly which symbolizes wealth in the New Year. The New Year's feast is the biggest of the year. It is their hope that they will have all of the things that the food represents.

This is one of the best time during the year to travel to China. This is considered the off-season, so one may be able to find lower prices for airfare  as well as tours given to celebratory events. There are tons of cultural events happening as well as Chinese-style carnivals and folk performances. You could find yourself enjoying a dragon dance while munching on some grilled, spicy squid or rice cakes.

 What holidays do you and your family enjoy celebrating together?

Photos courtesy of Tonya Staab and Getty.

Stephanie is the mom of 2 daughters and a South Carolina native. This southern girl is married to a wounded warrior who served in Iraq. She enjoys traveling and trying new foods. She is a teacher by day and consults with businesses to connect them to the military consumer. You can find her boasting of travel adventures at Military Travel Mama. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook!

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