These days, Chinese New Year is celebrated worldwide. Also known as Spring Festival, Lunar New Year, or 春節 (in Chinese), it follows the lunar calendar and so the date changes every year. Usually, it falls on a day between mid-January and mid-February.
The New Year is the longest public holiday in China, and most people enjoy 7-12 days off from work. Better still, students have one month off for winter vacation. In 2018, the Chinese New Year holiday is from February 15 to 21.
For the Chinese, the holiday is a time for family reunions. It’s similar in that respect to Westerners spending Christmas with their families. With many Chinese choosing to travel during this time, there is a lot of coming and going. In fact, known as the Spring Festival Travel Rush – it accounts for the world’s largest annual migration.
Perhaps the biggest tradition of the New Year festivities is the annual reunion dinner for which families come together on Chinese New Year’s Eve. The reunion dinner takes the form of a big feast to commemorate the past year and is considered the most important family get together of the year.
The reunion dinner is often followed by watching the Spring Festival Gala on television. Also known as Chunwan, it’s the biggest television event of the year in China. In fact, it’s the world’s most-watched entertainment programme. A variety show, it attracts an average of 700 million viewers each year.
Given that fireworks were invented in medieval China, it comes as no surprise that fireworks also form a big part of the festivities. Most families set off fireworks to celebrate the festival. The biggest firework show is on Chinese New Year’s Eve. It’s the annual largest usage of fireworks in the world.
Decoration is also an important part of how the holiday is celebrated and represented. The most common decoration is red lanterns, which can be found hanging in homes and city streets across the country. Red paper with good wishes written in gold are also popular decorations. The colour red is commonly used because in Chinese culture it represents happiness, wealth, and prosperity, and can ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.
“Guo Nian Hao” (pronounced gor nee-an how) is one of the most common ways to say “Happy New Year” in Chinese. Instead of gifts, red envelopes filled with small amounts of good luck money are exchanged. Called “lai see” (利是), giving and receiving these red packets is a big part of Chinese New Year celebrations.
Chinese New Year also starts a new animal’s zodiac year and, in 2018, it’s the Year of the Dog. In Chinese astrology, each year is related to a Chinese zodiac animal of which there are 12. In addition, each zodiac sign is associated with one of the five Chinese elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth. 2018 is an Earth Dog Year.
In Chinese astrology, those born in the Year of the Dog are believed to be loyal and honest, amiable and kind, cautious and prudent.
According to the Chinese Horoscope, 2018 predicts that this year of the Earth Dog is going to be a good year in all respects, but it will also be an exhausting year. The Year of the Dog will accelerate the initiation of all things, but this will bring, at the same time, pressure and stress in everyday life.
Chinese New Year celebrations usually last for 15 days until Lantern Festival, marking the end of the celebration. On Lantern Festival, people will go out to look at the moon, send up flying lanterns, have a meal, and enjoy time together with family. It’s also tradition on this day for households to eat yuanxiao (a rice ball stuffed with different fillings), hence why it is also called Yuan Xiao Festival.