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8 Festive Chinese New Year Traditions

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Getty

Steeped in myth and following traditions that date back thousands of years, Chinese New Year is a 15-day celebration aimed at bringing families together and ensuring good fortune for the year ahead. Here are a few ways people cast off the old and welcome in the new.

1. FAMILY FEASTS

For many Chinese, New Year’s Eve dinner is the biggest, most festive meal of the year. Families gather to feast on dishes like rice balls, turnip cake, fish, spring rolls, and dumplings. Cooks emphasize dishes thought to bring luck, like long noodles and a rice, fruit, and nut medley known as Eight-Treasure Rice.

2. RED ENVELOPES

Gift giving is an important part of Chinese New Year. Hóng bāo (or "red envelopes") with money tucked inside are presented to children and the elderly as a show of gratitude for the year past and the hope for prosperity in the months to come. These days, the tradition has gone digital, with transfer services enabling people to send money through email, text message, and other platforms.

3. CLEANING HOUSE

A new year signals a fresh start, which means many Chinese will wash, sweep, and de-clutter their homes in preparation for the year ahead. It's good exercise, but make sure to do it before the New Year arrives on January 28. Cleaning shortly after the new year arrives is thought to sweep away good luck.

4. DECORATE WITH RED

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In Chinese culture, red is the color of prosperity and good luck. People hang red banners, lanterns, and other accents in an effort to bestow good fortune on their homes. It’s also customary to put out bowls of oranges and apples, along with arrangements of flowers like peonies and orchids. A blossoming flower is thought to foretell blossoming wealth.

5. NEW CLOTHES, NEW 'DO

A fresh start extends to a person’s appearance, as well. In the days and weeks leading up to the new year, many Chinese take time to get a haircut, buy new clothes, and take other steps towards arranging their best look for the year ahead. As with home cleaning, this needs to be done before New Year's Day. Get a haircut in the days following the new year, and you’ll be cutting away your good luck and prosperity.

6. DRAGON DANCES

It’s a familiar sight at Chinese New Year festivals the world over: long, snaking dragons winding their way through the streets, spurred onward by pounding drums. These elaborate dragon floats, meant to celebrate the mythical river beast that symbolizes good luck and chases away evil spirits, require the coordinated movements of anywhere from two to more than a dozen well-trained performers. The longer a dragon dance lasts, the more luck it will bring to those watching.

7. FIREWORKS

The noise and flash of fireworks are thought to ward off evil spirits as the new year begins. Elaborate shows go off throughout China, while U.S. cities like New York and San Francisco stage their own elaborate displays. Each year, New York’s Chinatown rings in the new year with more than 600,000 rounds of firecrackers.

8. LANTERN FESTIVAL

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The 15th and final day of the New Year’s celebration is marked with the serenely beautiful lantern festival, which sees streets, homes, and temples adorned with colorful lanterns meant to bestow good fortune for the coming year. Lanterns come in all shapes and sizes, including those fashioned after the year’s animal (this year it’s the rooster). Some lamps also come with riddles (called dēng mí) written on them to keep children busy. (For example: What belongs to you but others use it more than you do? Answer: Your name.)

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11-Headed Buddha Statue to Be Revealed in Japan for First Time in 33 Years
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Buddha statues come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The various poses and hand gestures of the Buddha represent different virtues, and any items he happens to be holding—say, a lotus flower or a bowl—have some religious significance.

But not all Buddha relics are created equal, as evidenced by the reverence paid to one particularly holy statue in Japan. The 11-headed figure is so sacred that it has been hidden away for 33 years—until now. Lonely Planet reports that the Buddha statue will be revealed on April 23 during the Onsen Festival in Kinosaki Onsen, a coastal town along the Sea of Japan that’s famous for its hot springs. The statue is kept inside Onsen-ji Temple, a religious site which dates back to 738 CE.

Al altar inside Onsen-ji temple

Patrick Vierthaler, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The big Buddha reveal, however, will be held elsewhere. For that, festivalgoers will need to ride a cable car to the top of Mount Taishi, where they’ll catch a glimpse of Juichimen Kanzeon Bosatsu, a name which means “11-faced goddess of compassion and mercy.” It will be hard to miss—at 7 feet tall, the statue would tower over most NBA players. Considered a natural treasure, it’s displayed in three-year blocks once every 33 years. So if you miss the initial reveal, you have until 2021 to catch a glimpse.

“The people of Kinosaki are very excited about this event, especially the younger generation," Jade Nunez, an international relations coordinator for the neighboring city of Toyooka, told Lonely Planet Travel News. "Those who are under 30 years old have never seen the statue in its entirety, so the event is especially important to them."

After paying their respects to the Buddha, festival attendees can take a dip in one of three hot spring bathhouses that will be free to use during the Onsen Festival.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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Miami to Host Inaugural Canine Film Festival
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There’s an annual festival dedicated to internet cat videos, so it only makes sense that dog-lovers would create their own film event. As the Miami New-Times reports, the Magic City will host the inaugural Canine Film Festival on July 15 and 16. The fundraising event encourages movie lovers to enjoy submitted flicks with their furry friends.

The festival will take place at the Cinépolis Coconut Grove and Hotel Indigo in Miami Lakes. Festivities kick off on the first day with “A Day at the Movies With Your Dog,” featuring film screenings attended by dogs and humans alike. Other events scheduled throughout the weekend include a dog fashion show, dog yoga, silent auctions, a canine costume contest, an after-party at Miami Lakes' Hotel Indigo, and an awards ceremony.

Admission costs $10 to $1000, and 50 percent of ticket proceeds will benefit local animal rescues and shelters. For more information, visit the Canine Film Festival's website.

[h/t Miami New Times]

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