A Beginner’s Guide to Chinese New Year

Xin Nian Kuai Le my dear readers! The year of the Dog is upon us and the Chinese New Year celebrations have begun! Having lived in China for two and a half years, I thought it would be a great idea to write a post about one of my favorite Chinese holidays! Celebrated by over 20 % of the world’s population, this is one of the most important times in Chinese culture, filled with tradition, family, hongbao and lots of fireworks! If you’re visiting China around this time and are unsure about what this holiday is all about, then you’ve come to the right place! Here is a simple beginner’s guide to understanding Chinese New Year.

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Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival

Chinese New Year celebrations don’t just mark the start of a new year but rather also the end of winter and the welcoming of the spring harvest. Many people refer to it as chunjie or the Spring Festival.

 

The date changes every year

The Spring Festival aligns itself with the lunar calendar and in fact, this holiday is sometimes even referred to as the Lunar New Year. Chinese New Year often falls anywhere between the middle or end of January to late February depending of course, on the lunar calendar.

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There are lots of fireworks being lit

If you’ve ever been in China around the Chinese New Year period, you will have noticed the endless amount of fireworks being sold and of course lit! For days on end, all around the clock, you will hear tons of extremely loud sounding fireworks. In fact, it almost sounds like a continuous machine gun going off but the pretty lights in the night sky remind you of what an auspicious and festive time this is.

 

Fireworks are banned in some Chinese cities

With the amount of fireworks being lit over this special time, it’s hard to believe that some Chinese cities have actually banned them and a greater number of cities have put restrictions in place.

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The largest human migration in the world

The biggest part about Chinese New Year is family. Throughout the year, younger generations move to bigger cities like Shanghai and Beijing for work while elders and the extended family tend to stay back in smaller home towns around China. From a week before the celebrations begin, thousands of people start making their way back to their home towns either by train, plane or car. This is better known as chunyun or the Spring Migration. It also means that should you want to travel during this time, you should book you tickets as early as two months in advance because thousands of locals will be traveling during this time.

 

Lucky money

In Chinese culture, children receive lucky money, better known as hongbao in bright red envelopes. These lucky red packets are meant to symbolize the transfer of good fortune from elders to young children.

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Delicious dumplings

Certain lucky foods eaten during Chinese New Year have a symbolic meaning and are thought to bring good luck for the incoming year. Dumplings are eaten throughout the New Year celebrations and are thought to bring wealth and prosperity.

 

Pray for good harvests and fighting off evil

Many Chinese see this as a time to pray for a good harvest season but also to ward off any evil. In fact, there is a popular myth about a monster named Nian that would appear every New Year’s Eve. While most families hid away in their homes, a brave little boy tried to scare him off using firecrackers. Since then locals celebrate the start of the new year by lighting many loud sounding firecrackers.

 

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Red is everywhere

The color red symbolizes good fortune and joy and can be found almost everywhere at this time of the year. Locals hang up red lanterns, strings of red chili peppers as well as red and gold papers onto doors and windows. New red clothes are worn as well to symbolize good luck and the start of a new year.

Each year has a zodiac animal

Known as shengxiao, the Chinese animal zodiac consists of a cycle of 12 years. Each year is represented by a different animal, with each animal traditionally being linked to the dates of years. The 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac include the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. since each year is associated with a zodiac animal, 2018 is said to be the year of the Dog.

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Hi World! I'm Shal - an environmental microbiologist, writer, teacher and artist from Durban, South Africa. I've spent the last two years traveling and teaching Chemistry and English to young kids in Asia. Life of Shal was founded as a way to share travel experiences, tips and other worldly magic with you! Join me on my journey!

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