Mandarin orange or tangerine trees are also very popular. We saw these out in front of most hotels, stores, and restaurants. Red envelopes were tied onto them. Tangerine and orange sound like the words luck and wealth in Mandarin, so having these trees out front is supposed to usher in good fortune.
Here are some other fun facts about the Chinese New Year...
-1/5 of the world's population celebrates this festival. It's not just in China; other Asian countries celebrate as well (Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, etc.).
-It's also called the Spring Festival, as it marks the end of the coldest days of the year.
-It lasts for 15 days and ends with a Lantern Festival on the night of the first full moon.
-The festival date changes every year, falling between mid-January to mid-February. It depends on the movement of the moon.
-People clean their houses (sweeping out the old year) before the festival, and kids get new clothes and haircuts.
-Tons of shopping is done in preparation for the festival. The stores were crazy crowded when we were in China. Like Black Friday insanity in some places!
-Like on our New Year, fireworks are set off at midnight. Lots and lots of fireworks.
-A special sausage is made for the new year. We got to try some at the meal we ate with the orphanage staff. It was pretty good; it had kind of a cinnamon or clove-like flavor.
-The zodiac animals are on a 12-year cycle. They include rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Jonas and Johanna are both dragons, and Zack and I are both horses. Even though Zack and I were born in different years, because my birthday is in January, I'm still a horse because the Chinese New Year hadn't happened yet. So you can't just go by the year if you were a January baby!
I know I didn't know a lot about this holiday before traveling to China and learning about it this year, so hopefully this helps some of you have a better understanding of it as well. We're excited to have another holiday to celebrate, though we didn't really do it up right this year, being as we're working on the jet lag thing (I'm up at 4am writing this!) and have kind of had our fill of Chinese food for awhile. But next year we'll celebrate for sure, or maybe we'll just have a belated celebration at the end of the festival this year! Anyway, Happy New Year!