How the Grinch Stole Chinese New Year

Slate Magazine looks at how modern urban Chinese celebrate the New Year, without many of the rituals and traditions of the past:

While Chinatowns in America host flashy parades this month, city folk inside the People’s Republic rang in the New Year Wednesday night in front of the tube. Over the past century, the long-held traditions associated with Chinese New Year have been stripped away, right down to the holiday’s name: By government decree, Chinese New Year was rechristened “Spring Festival.” For most urban families, celebrating is limited to eating dumplings, setting off fireworks, and watching the national TV program (this year’s theme, “Thriving China, Harmonious Society”), which will feature a blind singer and a comedy routine called “Olympic Torch Bearers.”

Gone from cities are rituals like kowtowing to elders and burning the Kitchen God. (As is also the case with the fortune cookie, large Chinese New Year parades like San Francisco’s are an American invention.) Almost every one of the Chinese New Year traditions has been banned at some point in recent decades. It’s as if the U.S. government outlawed and vilified Santa Claus costumes, nativity scenes, and Christmas lights.

The article is accompanied by a slideshow

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