Chinese New Year. By History.com, adapted by Newsela staff on Word Count 898

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1 Chinese New Year By History.com, adapted by Newsela staff on Word Count 898 TOP: Chinese artists perform a dragon dance at a local amusement park during celebrations for the Lunar New Year, February 19, 2015, in Beijing, China; Kevin Frayer/Getty Images. BOTTOM: Members of a family toast during New Year's Eve dinner at a resident's home on February 17, 2007, in Beijing, China China Photos/Getty Images The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival as it is also called, remains the most important social and economic holiday in China. Originally tied to the Chinese calendar, the holiday was a time to honor the household deities, or spirits that protect the home, heavenly deities and family ancestors. It was also a time to bring family together for feasting. When China adopted the Western calendar in 1912, the Chinese began celebrating January 1 as New Year s Day. China, however, continues to celebrate the traditional Chinese New Year, although in a shorter version with a new name: the Spring Festival. Significantly, younger generations of Chinese now observe the holiday in a very different manner from their ancestors. For some young people, the holiday has changed from an opportunity to renew family ties to a chance for a holiday from work. The Chinese New Year is based on the ancient Chinese calendar. Ancient astronomical records show that the holiday existed at least as early as 14th century B.C., about 3,400 years ago, when the Shang Dynasty was in power. The calendar s structure wasn t fixed, and it was reset according to which emperor held power and was used differently in different regions. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 1

2 The Chinese calendar was very complex The Chinese calendar was a complex timepiece. It was set according to the phases of the moon as well as the solar solstices and equinoxes. The solstices include the longest and shortest days of the year, and the equinoxes are the days of the year that are equal in length. Each year, there are two solstices and two equinoxes. Yin and yang, the principles that make up a harmonious world, also ruled the calendar, as did the Chinese zodiac, a cycle of 12 stations or signs" based on the constellations. Each new year was marked by the characteristics of one of the 12 zodiacal animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The Chinese New Year began in the middle of the 12th month of the year and ended around the middle of the first month. The New Year period was traditionally divided into New Year s Eve and the first days of the new year. Celebration became the main focus of households Traditionally for the Chinese, New Year was the most important festival on the calendar, and the entire attention of the household was fixed on the celebration. During this time, business life came nearly to a stop. Home and family were the main focus. To prepare for the holiday, homes were thoroughly cleaned to get rid of huiqi, or inauspicious breaths, which might have collected during the old year. Cleaning was also meant to appease the gods who would be coming down from heaven to make inspections. Food and paper icons were offered to gods and ancestors. People posted scrolls with lucky messages on household gates and set off firecrackers to frighten evil spirits. Elders gave out money to children. Many of the customs carried out during this period were meant to bring good luck to the household and long life to the family, particularly to the parents. Most important was the feasting. On New Year s Eve, the family would join around the table for a meal. The last course was a fish that was symbolic of abundance and therefore was not meant to be eaten. In the first five days of the New Year, people ate long noodles to symbolize long life. On the 15th and final day of the New Year, round dumplings shaped like the full moon were shared as a sign of the family unit and of perfection. January 1 was recognized as New Year's Day The Western-style calendar arrived in China along with Catholic missionaries in It began to be used by the general population by 1912, and New Year s Day was officially recognized as January 1. Beginning in 1949, under the rule of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong, the government forbade celebration of the traditional Chinese New Year. However, by the end of the 20th century, Chinese leaders were more willing to accept This article is available at 5 reading levels at 2

3 the Chinese tradition. In 1996, China established a weeklong vacation during the holiday, now called Spring Festival, giving people the opportunity to travel home and to celebrate the new year. In the early 21st century, many Chinese families spent a lot of money celebrating the Spring Festival with traditional symbols and food. They also watched the Spring Festival Gala on television, an annual show featuring traditional and contemporary singers, dancers and magic demonstrations. Although the holiday traditions no longer had religious value, people still paid attention to the zodiacal animals. They considered what, for example, a year of the rat might mean for their personal fortunes or for a child born at that time. Attitudes toward Spring Festival are changing China s young people have a different attitude toward the Spring Festival. Chinese college students report that they prefer surfing the Internet, sleeping, watching TV or spending time with friends to celebrating with family. They also reported not liking traditional New Year foods such as dumplings and sticky rice pastry. With its change of name from Chinese New Year to Spring Festival, the holiday itself has changed for some members of the younger generation. It has evolved from an opportunity to renew family ties to a chance for a holiday break from work. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 3

4 Quiz 1 According to the article, celebrating New Year is a big commitment for many families. Which sentence from the article BEST supports this statement? The last course was a fish that was symbolic of abundance and therefore was not meant to be eaten. In 1996, China established a weeklong vacation during the holiday, now called Spring Festival, giving people the opportunity to travel home and to celebrate the new year. In the early 21st century, many Chinese families spent a lot of money celebrating the Spring Festival with traditional symbols and food. They considered what, for example, a year of the rat might mean for their personal fortunes or for a child born at that time. 2 Which section of the article highlights the beliefs and symbolism of New Year? "The Chinese calendar was very complex" "Celebration became the main focus of households" "January 1 was recognized as New Year's Day" "Attitudes toward Spring Festival are changing" 3 Which of these sentences from the article would be MOST important to include in an objective summary of the article? The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival as it is also called, remains the most important social and economic holiday in China. Each new year was marked by the characteristics of one of the 12 zodiacal animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. People posted scrolls with lucky messages on household gates and set off firecrackers to frighten evil spirits. They also watched the Spring Festival Gala on television, an annual show featuring traditional and contemporary singers, dancers and magic demonstrations. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 4

5 4 Which of the following details is MOST important to the development of the central idea? In 1582 Catholic missionaries introduced China to the Western-style calendar. In recent years, Chinese New Year celebrations have moved away from older, religious traditions. Traditionally, Chinese eat dumplings and sticky rice pastries as part of the New Year celebrations. The New Year holiday existed as far back as the time of the Shang Dynasty, over 3,000 years ago. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 5

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