Chinese New Year

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Part 2: Looking Ahead

The Sixth New Year's Day is spent visiting friends and family and praying for good health and good fortune.

The Seventh New Year's Day is traditionally every person's birthday. Family and friends get together to celebrate with a special meal of yu sheng (tossed fish salad) and to wish one another wealth and prosperity in the year ahead. Noodles are also eaten, as a symbol of prosperity. And farmers traditionally make a special drink from seven kinds of vegetables, to celebrate their harvests.

On the Eighth New Year's Day, families have another special meal and offer more prayers for long life and prosperity.

The next four days are highlighted by more special meals. On the 13th New Year's Day, a light meal is in order, to make up for the rich foods consumed during the past several days. And on the 14th New Year's Day, Chinese people spend most of their time getting ready for the end of the celebrations.

The 15th and last day of the Chinese New Year festivities focuses on the popular Lantern Festival, which has been compared to Halloween. Children go out at night carrying specially made bright lanterns. These lanterns in olden times were simple; today, they can be quite elaborate, often made in the shape of animals. Lantern Festivals also include parades as well, and people often make up and guess special riddles. Among the many traditional foods eaten on this last day of the New Year is tang yuan, a sweet rice and dumpling soup.

People decorate their homes to celebrate the New Year as well. Included in the decorations are live blooming flowers and plants, which symbolize long life and prosperity in the New Year; oranges and tangerines, which are symbols of abundant wealth and happiness and also of continued friendship; and candy trays filled with fruit, seeds, and nuts.

New Year celebrations are full of symbolism. The color red and series of loud noises that are often seen in parades and in decorations are the result of a legend from ancient times in which residents of a village scared away a monster that had been terrorizing them by confronting it with read banners and by banging gongs and drums and setting off firecrackers. The monster was itself scared away, and the tradition continues to this day.

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