Chinese New Year is the biggest date in the calendar for Chinese communities. What’s it all about and how is it celebrated here and abroad?
Lunar New Year
The date for the New Year is calculated from both the Chinese calendar and the patterns of the moon, which is why the New Year is also sometimes called the Lunar New Year.
This year’s Chinese New Year starts on 7 February and festivities will last for a further 14 days. How’s that for a celebration?
Year of the Rat
Today also marks the start of the Year of the Rat, which is one of the 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac.
It’s a bit like star signs, as every animal represents different characteristics. Chinese astrologers say that people who are born in the Year of the Rat are charming, hardworking and make very good leaders.
The legend of Nien
The origin of the Chinese New Year Festival can be traced back thousands of years.
According to legend, a cruel beast called Nien eats people on the day before the new year. As Nien is said to fear the colour red and loud noises, red paper is pasted on doors, torches are lit, and firecrackers are set off throughout the night. The next morning is seen as a New Year because Nien was successfully kept away for another year.
How is it celebrated?
In Chinese homes all around the globe, New Year’s Eve is spent with family members. Everyone digs into a huge feast and ‘lucky money’ in red envelopes is given to elders and children.
New Year’s Day is usually spent visiting relatives, especially senior members of the family like grandparents and great-grandparents.
In China, alongside the usual feast, families also get together and watch the biggest annual event on telly, the ‘New Year’s Gala’. It’s watched by an estimated 700 million people!
Chinese people strongly abide by some New Year superstitions. Here are a few popular ones.
- Keeping the lights on for the night is considered good luck to ‘scare away’ ghosts that may take away the good luck and fortune of the New Year.
- It is important to have the house completely clean from top to bottom before New Year’s Day for good luck in the coming year. Cleaning after New Year’s day is frowned upon.
- New clothes are worn to signify a new year. But clothes in black and white are avoided, as black is a symbol of bad luck, and white is a traditional funeral colour.
Due to the large Chinese population in the UK, a day long celebration is annually held in London’s Chinatown.
This Sunday’s celebration starts at 11am with a two hour parade of Chinese dragon and lion dances through central London. Firecrackers and fireworks will also be set off in the afternoon in Leicester Square.
There’ll also be loads of authentic Chinese food to eat. Typical New Year grub you’ll see are fish, dumplings and oranges.