Everything You Need to Know About Chinese New Year
Millions of communities all over the world celebrate Chinese New Year.
Food, fireworks, traditional clothing and many other customs mark the festivities, which officially began on February 12th this year.
The new year falls on this date because it commemorates the beginning of the start of the lunar year, which is the start of a new moon. But, because the festivities depend on the moon, the date will differ each year, although it will always fall at some point between January 21st and February 20th.
2021 saw the year change from the year of the Rat to the Ox.
Chinese New Year Explained
Chinese New Year is also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival and is undoubtedly the most important event on the Chinese calendar.
As per tradition, every new year is named as one of the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac:
In order to remain parallel with the Gregorian calendar, there may occasionally be an extra month after the first, referred to as the “Rune Yue”.
Each year will follow a twelve-year sequence, so for example, 2020 was the year of the rat, which is the first animal of the twelve and therefore the beginning of the sequence.
Because of this, Chinese New Year decoration will always prominently feature the animal of the coming year. This makes festive decorations a lucrative business in China because it means families need to purchase new sets every year, as it’s considered unlucky to reuse decorations every twelve years.
How is Chinese New Year Celebrated?
Understandably 2021 saw Chinese New Year celebrated a little differently, particularly in the UK, where strict coronavirus guidelines meant that families and friends are unable to meet up to celebrate as they usually would.
Typically, millions of people in China would travel the country’s breadth in the run-up to the new year to spend time with their loved ones.
Before the festivities begin, it is a tradition for people to give their homes a thorough clean to symbolise a clean break or a fresh start.
In normal circumstances the new year would be marked by performances, parades and carnivals, where people are encouraged to dress in traditional garments. Fireworks are also commonly used at this time of year since the bright lights and noise are thought to ward off the presence of evil spirits’ for the upcoming year.
How Long Does Chinese New Year Last?
Chinese New Year celebrations go on for fifteen days, and each day of this period is earmarked for various customs and religious traditions.
The fifteenth day is the Lantern Festival (February 26th in 2021), for example, where people release Chinese lanterns to signify a new start and a release of the events of the past year.
The Lantern Festival is also considered to be a day for single people to find a new romance in countries like China, Singapore and Malaysia.
Women write their details and phone number on oranges, which are then tossed into the river. After which, single men are seen wading into the water to collect the oranges in the hopes of finding a partner.
Traditional Chinese New Year Gifts
During the festivities, children are given red envelopes containing money from older friends and family members, along with other small gifts.
There are some strict do’s and don’ts when it comes to exchanging gifts during Chinese New Year, though.
Anything that represents that passing of time, such as a watch or a clock is a not allowed, nor is anything associated with death or funerals, such as handkerchiefs or anything black, for instance.
Socks, shoes or mirrors, which could be interpreted as a means to walk away from a relationship are also frowned upon.
Chinese New Year business customs are fairly straightforward nowadays, particularly given that China is now a significant player on the world stage.
Still, for anyone doing business with a Chinese company, they can be bewildering if one isn’t used to them.
Generally, there are five business customs that the Chinese almost universally observe during the course of the celebrations.
It’s important to note that many of these traditions are followed as a result of traditional beliefs and folklore:
- Wearing Red – red is considered good luck in Asian culture and is believed to ward away evil spirits.
- Exchanging Mandarins – this initially began as a south China custom. The Cantonese pronunciation of giving orange’s “song gam”, is the same as “giving gold”, which signifies wishing prosperity on the recipient.
- Giving or Receiving Red Packets – once again, this signifies luck and prosperity.
- Shutting Down and Reopening Businesses – although people in China are given seven official days off, many businesses will be closed for longer than this.
- Preparing for Chinese New Year’s Eve – as we’ve mentioned in the run-up to the event many will deep clean their homes, this practice extends to business premises too.