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Chinese New Year

02.01.2018  |  updated: 01.03.2024
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a snake winding through the year 2025

In the lead-up to a new year in China, you will be in no doubt about what that year is. The shops will be bursting with items that represent the coming year’s animal sign.

Metre upon metre of shelf space is also dedicated to a multitude of decorations, which the Chinese traditionally hang on their doors. When the New Year is near, the Chinese hang decorations symbolising the sign 福 (fú), which means happiness.

The keywords of the Chinese New Year festivities are family, celebrations and fireworks.

Calendar & a little history

Lantern

The Chinese New Year marks the turn of the year – just as it does in the UK.

Nevertheless, the Chinese New Year is quite different to what we are used to.

First of all, the Chinese calendar is different to ours. Although, like us, the Chinese also live in 2024, they also live in 4722.

Our calendar is calculated from the birth of Christ, while the Chinese calendar is calculated on the basis of Emperor Huang-di’s Chinese calendar. Legend has it that Huang-di invented the solilunar calendar, and the Chinese calendar starts in the first year of Huang-di’s reign, in 2698 BC.

In Chinese, the New Year is called 春节 (chūnjié), which means spring festival.

When is the Chinese New Year?

Year of the Dragon

Unlike our New Year, the date of the Chinese New Year changes from year to year. However, it always falls between 21 January and 20 February.

The date of the New Year is determined by the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which is why the Chinese New Year does not follow ours.

In 2024, Chinese New Year fell on 10 February (Year of the Dragon). In 2025, Chinese New Year falls on 29 January (Year of the Snake).

The celebration of the New Year lasts 15 days, kicking off with the new moon and ending at the following full moon.

What are the traditions?

Red envelope

While New Year traditions in the UK include the singing of Auld Land Syne, fireworks and often alcohol, the Chinese traditions are of a quite different nature.

In the UK, New Year’s Eve is about partying with friends. In China, the focus is on the family.

Chinese New Year is a family celebration

The Chinese travel many miles to be together with their families, and the number of people making their way across the country exceeds every other day of the year. In fact, the travel activity of the Chinese is referred to as the world’s largest human migration.

In Northern China, they traditionally eat dumplings, while the Chinese in the south eat sticky rice cakes. A total of 8 courses are served on this evening, because the number 8 means luck.

Parents traditionally give red envelopes to their children with money inside. And the parents receive envelopes of the same colour from their employers.

Fireworks are an important part of the celebration

Chinese powder

In addition to the family gathering, the eating of good food and the exchanging of red envelopes, fireworks are also an important ingredient of New Year celebrations.

To scare away evil spirits and celebrate the coming of the New Year, the Chinese let off fire crackers and fireworks.

After the luxurious banquet, the explosive part of the celebration begins. Almost everyone in China lets off fireworks on New Year’s Eve, and while the brightly-coloured illuminations paint the dark skies, loud bangs ring out when the red firecrackers are let off in bundles.

The New Year is celebrated over the next 15 days, culminating in a lantern festival, when the Chinese hang out lanterns in front of their homes.

Three fascinating facts about the Chinese New Year

Red lanterns

  • The Chinese believe that the animal signs determine the person you will become. When it’s the Year of the Dragon, the birth rate increases by around 5% in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
  • The Chinese New Year is celebrated by 20% of the world’s population, and it is the most important festival in China. The people of many Asian countries have between one and four days’ holiday. Schools in China are closed for a month.
  • Around 90% of the world’s fireworks are produced in China. In the hour leading up to midnight, signalling the Chinese New Year, more fireworks are let off than at any other time and in any other place in the world.

If you are in China during the New Year celebrations, you will undoubtedly experience the spectacular, loud and colourful New Year festivities.

新年快乐 (Xīnnián kuàilè), or Happy Chinese New Year to you all!

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