Published 10th February 2021

chinese new year

Xīnnián kuàilè!

Happy New Year!

You might be thinking that our new year celebrations are over for the year, but we have good news for you! In 2021, Chinese New Year falls on the 12th of February – so we have another new year’s celebration right around the corner. But if you think this special occasion is only about staying up late and setting off fireworks, then we’re going to ask you to think again. This celebration is so much more than that.

How do we celebrate Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is more than one day; it’s actually 15 days (from 12 February to 26 February this year). While many of us celebrate New Year’s Eve on a specific date each year (31 December), Chinese New Year changes date every year because it’s based on the lunar calendar and not the Gregorian calendar. The celebrations of Chinese New Year are known as the Spring Festival.

The festival is thought to have its origins in the legend of Nian. Thousands of years ago a monster named Nian would attack Chinese villagers at the beginning of the year. Nian was found to be afraid of loud noises, bright lights, and the colour red, so these were used to drive the monster away. This is why firecrackers, fireworks, red clothes, and red decorations are a central part of the new year celebrations.

Food and Festivities

As with many celebrations, food plays an important part. Typical foods served during the festivities are fish, oysters, and seaweed. This is because their names in Chinese sound similar to the Chinese words for abundance, good events, and fortune, respectively. Chinese dumplings are eaten at midnight on New Year’s Eve to attract good luck and wealth, and noodles are eaten as they symbolize a long life. Eating traditional sweets is also popular to ensure the upcoming year is sweeter than the last.

The most important meal of the year is celebrated on New Year’s Eve (11 February) with the family. After dinner, the children all receive red envelopes (usually filled with money), and then everyone will stay up to welcome in the new year with fireworks.

On New Year’s Day, there might be processions or parades, where thousands of people will gather, most of them wearing red. The streets and shops will be decorated with red decorations and Chinese lanterns will be hung up in shopfronts.

The Lantern Festival signals the end of the festivities. This is when people hang lanterns in temples or carry them in a nighttime parade. A dragon dance is often observed, as the dragon is a symbol of good fortune.

What is the significance of Chinese New Year

The lunar calendar is associated with twelve animal signs in the Chinese zodiac. Each year correlates to one of the twelve animals. 2020 was the Year of the Rat, 2021 is the Year of the Ox, and 2022 will be the Year of the Tiger.

The Chinese zodiac animals are, in order:

Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig, Rat.

The zodiac animal is important as it has some connotations for the year, particularly if you were born in that year. For example, if you were born in the Year of the Ox (for example, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, or 2021), you are considered a natural leader, bright, patient, and cheerful. The Year of the Ox typically brings with it success in business and your career – for all signs but particularly if you are an Ox!

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year superstitions

At this special time of year, if you are in China or are in a country that celebrates the new year you will need to keep a few things in mind.

  • Make sure your debts are all paid up before the new year celebrations start, or else you will be in debt for the whole year. Also, don’t borrow or lend money during the festival.
  • While you might want to start the new year on a clean note you shouldn’t clean or sweep your house on the first day of the new year, as you may sweep away good fortune. Taking out the garbage is the same as taking good fortune out of your house. A deep clean of your house should be done before the new year celebrations to rid your house of bad energy.
  • You shouldn’t wash your hair on New Year’s Day, as this means washing away your wealth.
  • Taking medicine on the first day means that you will get sick for the rest of the year. Visiting a patient in a hospital on this day will only bring them more ill-health.
  • Avoid any activities which use sharp implements, such as scissors, knives, and needles. Sharp objects are thought to bring bad luck.
  • Don’t forget to wear your lucky read underwear! Or at least red clothes. Avoid black or white clothing.
  • On the third day of the new year, you should leave some crumbs of crackers in the corners of your house to share your harvest with the rats. If this is done and the rats are undisturbed on this night, then they won’t bother you during the year.

Chinese New Year

The New Year is an exciting time for everyone, bringing with it the promise of a fresh start and new beginnings. If you are in China for Chinese New Year, or if you are in a city where Chinese New Year is celebrated, or if you celebrate it yourself, be sure to find out what your community is doing to celebrate this auspicious occasion.

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