Chinese New Year Overview
Chinese New Year — often termed as Lunar New Year — is considered as one of the most important vacations for Chinese people.
Chinese Year, unlike the beginning of a New Year devised on the basis of Gregorian Calendar, signifies the beginning of a New Year in the traditional Chinese calendar.
According to the Chinese calendar which dates back to over 4,000 years, the fourth edition marks the Year of the Pig. A bit about the arrival of the Chinese New Year falls the commencing of the crop cycle, which signals the completion of the winter and a signal to welcome a new season.
Compared to the Gregorian Calendar which works on the principles of the solar calendar, Chinese New Year takes traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar into account, whose dates symbolize both the time of the solar year as well as the phase of the moon.
The dates of the two calendars vary as Lunar months falls short by two days with respect to the magnitude of Solar month. To close the gap between the two calendars, at every few years, a month is added to the Chinese calendar.
Because the Chinese New Year depends on lunar calculation, there has been designated no fixed value for the inauguration of a fresh start, i.e., the New Year, but it mostly falls between 21 January and 20 February.
The Chinese New Year represents the moving away from the previous year and stepping in the new lunar year, with doing good in health, prosperity, happiness, and fortune.
It’s a time that the entire nation collectively celebrates with a notion to catch up with the ups and downs of family members, celebrate fireworks, share gifts, and enjoy good food.
Chinese New Year signifies breaking those chains associated with the old year that held one back and open the window of freshness to welcome good fortune and a ton load of luck.
With Chinese diaspora presence across the globe, the Chinese New Year is celebrated not just in Asia but all over the world.
According to the Chinese Zodiac, which consists of 12 animal signs, each new year tallies with one of those 12 animals. The 2019 Chinese New Year is the Year of the Pig and will continue for 15 consecutive days — out of this period, the initial two or three days of the festival are granted as a public vacation in China and differs from country to country in the different parts of the world.
How long is the Chinese New Year? A complete day-by-day decode of 15-day Chinese New Year Activities
Chinese New Year — Day One (New Year’s Eve)
- Celebrating the Beginning of the Year
- Welcoming guests with sweet treats and tea
- Eat Dumplings
- Reunion Dinner
- Set off Fireworks and Firecrackers
- Distribute Red Envelopes
- Stick Spring Festival Couplets
The first day fills the Chinese people with a sense of a new start and dumping the old ones. It brings a message of hope refreshment, wealth increment, happiness, and prosperity.
Chinese New Year — Day Two
- Visit the wife’s family
- Eat wonton
- Pray to the ancestors and gods
For married men, this day is devoted to visiting and meeting married women’s parents. Married women visit their birth parents to pay respect and distribute gifts.
Chinese New Year — Day Three
- Stay at home
On the third day of the New Year, Chinese people avoid moving out. They believe in the ideology that the third day is generally an unlucky day, and it gives rise to quarrels and disputes, so they avoid meeting outsiders such as relatives and friends.
This is superstitious though. In fact, after a busy two-day celebration, they like to relax and prepare for the next day adventures.
- Worship the Gods
- Big dinner preparation
This is a day believed to be as when Gods of food and wealth descend from heaven to visit earth. Especially for entrepreneurs, this day is of prime importance as they try to impress and win favor with the Gods.
On this day, people prepare for a big feast and the main dishes are three types of meat — fish, pork, and chicken — along with fruits and alcohol.
- Break Taboos
- The celebration of the birthday of the God of wealth
- Cleaning, sweeping and emptying the trash
- Eat Dumplings
On this day, breaking the taboos, people clean the shreds of firecrackers-produced red papers and empty the trash. It’s the day on which they celebrate the birthday of the God of wealth. To welcome this God, people open the windows and doors shortly after midnight.
- Discard all the rubbishes present in the house
- Say goodbye to the ghost of poverty
- Throw away old clothes and stuff
After welcoming the wealth of God, on the sixth day, people clean their houses and discard all old clothes and stuff that are no longer functioning and only occupying space. They clean all areas of the house, including garage and storerooms.
- Birthday of Human
- Eat longevity noodles
- Eat healthy foods
- Go back to work
On the seventh day, people celebrate the birthday of the human. They commemorate Nu Wa who is considered having separated earth from heaven and the creator of the humans, using yellow clay. They prepare seven types of vegetables and rice to make porridge, to celebrate the birthday of humans.
- Celebrate the birthday of rice
Chinese people find it important to share with their children that from where most their food comes. So, they visit the nearby farms and fields with their children, to educate them about the significance of rice, the staple food of China.
Chinese people find it important to share with their children that from where most their food comes. So, they visit the nearby farms and fields with their children, to educate them about the significance of rice, the staple food of China.
- The celebration of the day of Jade Emperor
They sacrifice a chicken in the honor of Jade Emperor. Feasting and offerings are also done.
Day Ten to Twelve
Day ten through twelve is not of paramount importance for the Chinese people, so they do regular activities like meeting friends and relatives, more feasts, drinking, and celebrations.
Day Thirteen and Fourteen
Since the commencement of the New Year celebration, they all keep eating heavy food, so, on these two days, they try to balance their diet and prepare veg foods like rice and vegetables.
Also, as the lantern day is anytime soon now, so they spend most of the time shopping for the lantern day and ingredients for tang yuan. Once the shopping gets over, the Chinese people prepare lanterns and make tang yuan.
- Celebrate the lantern festival
- First full moon day; marks the end of the New Year celebration
- Eating sweet dumplings
The fifteenth day is celebrated as the lantern festival. Sky gets loaded with colorful lanterns. Everything gets normal after this day. Some people still enjoy this day as Chinese valentine’s day. The spirit of the lantern festival is to assimilate and appreciate the full moon which symbolizes reunion and happiness.
Chinese New Year Greetings
The Chinese New Year fills the Chinese people with a lot of happiness and joy, and the same they reflect such embedded respect and good wishes in a variety of greetings. Acquainting yourself with these greetings empower you with a sense of feeling to express in case you run into a Chinese person and surprise them with your knowledge of their culture.
Like they follow in India, Chinese, too, practice the two versions of ‘you’ — one to greet the youngsters and second to greet the elders. With elders, to show respect, Nín is used and, in the case of youngsters, nǐ is used.
祝您…… Zhu nín… Wish you (Older/Respected)
祝你…… Zhu nǐ … Wish you (Younger/Informal)
Chinese Character PinYin Romanization English
新年好 Xīnnián hǎo Happy New Year
猪年大吉 Zhū nián dàjí Wish you luck in the year of the Pig
过年好 Guònián hǎo Happy New Year
恭贺新禧 Gōnghè xīnxǐHappy New Year
新年快乐 Xīnnián kuàilè Happy New Year
大吉大利 Dàjí dàlì Lots of luck and Profit
心想事成 Xīnxiǎng shì chéng May all your wishes come true
吉星高照 Jíxīng gāozhào Fortune will smile on you
吉祥如意 jíxiáng rúyì Good Fortune according to your wishes
春节快乐 Chūnjié kuàilè Happy Spring Festival
新春快乐 Xīnchūn kuàilè Happy New Spring
恭喜发财 Gōngxǐ fācái May you be happy and prosperous
恭贺新禧，祝身体健康、事业发达。Gōnghè xīnxǐ, zhù shēntǐ jiànkāng, shìyè fādá. Happy New Year. I wish you good health and lasting prosperity
Greetings for the entire family (especially when you’re addressing a family gathering)
阖家欢乐 Héjiā huānlè The cheerfulness of the whole family
阖家幸福 Héjiā xìngfú Well being of the whole family
Greetings for Business and at work
恭喜发财 Gōngxǐ fācái Happiness and Prosperity
事业有成 Shìyè yǒuchéng Success in your career
升官发财 Shēngguān fācái Win promotion and get rich
平步青云 Píngbù qīngyún Have a grand rise
工作顺利 Gōngzuò shùnlì May your work go smoothly
Chinese New Year Decorations: Traditional and Modern
As the Chinese New Year approaches, people begin to experiment with a lot of decorative materials, like Fu character pictures, Spring Festival couplets, and paper cuttings.
Usually, they start shopping and decorating their houses, streets, and office spaces about one week before. As the New Year comes closer, the walls (interior and exterior) and the doors get jeweled with the modernized forms of adornment materials.
Chinese people like red color for the New Year celebration and decoration, so they craft and shop everything red so that the entire surrounding get bathed in the hue of red.
Upside Down Fu characters
The Fu character stands for blessing and good fortune in Chinese. People stick it on or over the walls, with the character reading upside down on the door or window.
Doing so they believe, the inversion bestows the Fu character a ‘Dao’ meaning which pronounces the same as “coming” in Chinese. Chinese relate the inverted character’s meaning with the coming of the fortune, or the “pouring out” the “good fortune” on them.
So, when a visitor or the family member passes through the door, it implies that the good fortune rains over them.
Reflecting expertize in folk art, Chinese people, customarily, cut out distinct designs of paper, using scissors and cutting knife.
These paper cuttings hang behind or stick on a transparent surface, like a glass window or glass door. Paper cuttings symbolize good wishes for the year ahead.
Most people try to morph papers into the shape of the animal that represents a specific year, and some adhere to designing the shape of Fu, Shou, Lu, and Xi, which respectively stands for luck, long-life, wealth, and happiness. The paper can be of any color, but most people prefer red ones.
Chinese Red Lanterns
Representing a traditional folk handicraft, the bright red lanterns signify the Chinese culture and has established a special place in the Chinese festivals, especially during the Chinese New Year.
As the New Year comes to a close, red lanterns are hung in market streets, temples, shops, parks, and households. For its reunion meaning which Chinese people have devised, red lanterns play a vital role in adding a spark to the celebrations.
Although it comes in an array of shapes, sizes, and colors, the red color sells the most during the New Year celebration time.
Chinese knot shares a long history with China. In ancient China, it was merely a thing of recording, which gradually evolved to become a thing of accessories and decorations.
They are now a widely used element for decoration which people mostly use in the interiors, and share in the form of gifts with friends and relatives.
It’s formed of a single long rope which goes through many knot formation to take the form of a complicated shape, like petals and droopy pendants.
Knots come in various shapes, with a different set of meanings associated with each of them. These are taken as a thing of luck and that’s why it’s extensively used to beautify the houses at New Year.
Chinese New Year Animals Meaning
2019 is the Year of the Pig, but what actually that means?
For Chinese people, it may be a thing of the norm but for the people not of Chinese origin, the association of an animal with a year definitely rings no bell. So, here is the explanation.
The Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the lunar cycle, consists of 12 years. Each year of the lunar calendar is named after an animal which could be any of the 12 animals.
Like 2018 was the year of Earth Dog, which started from Feb 16, 2018, and will last until Feb 04, 2019; the New Year (2019) that will take over the previous one will be called the year of the Earth Pig and will span from Feb 5, 2019, until Jan 24, 2020.
Every animal signifies specific traits, and it closely associates with the personalities of the people by the years in which they were born.
The symbols, in the form of animals, repeat itself in the following order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
After the completion of one Zodiac cycle, the animals will repeat its meaning for the year the cycle will match up with. Compared to the Western astrology, in which the month of the birth decides the fortune of a person, the Chinese zodiac sign depends on the year in which a person takes birth.
As legends wrap it in the form of a story, one day Buddha called for an animal meeting. To which some disobeyed and unheard the Buddha and some made their attendance for a great celebration.
Those 12 animals which came to the gathering, received honor from Buddha, who named one year of the calendar for each of the animals.
Below is a comprehensive list of all 12 Chinese Zodiac signs, to which year they relate, and what each animal indicates?
People who are born in the year of Pig, have honorable, determined, sociable, and sincere personality traits. On the flip side of the coin, they’re also lazy and clumsy. They like to have less but bonafide friends. Sheep and Rabbit go well with Pig.
Year: 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031
The people born in the Year of the Rooster are taken as honest, independent, confident, punctual, flexible, and energetic. Their partnership lasts long with Snake and Ox.
Years: 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
They’re helpful, loyal, courageous, lively, adaptable, and honest. People born in the Dog year share a long-lasting relationship with those born in the year of Tiger and Horse.
Years: 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
People born in the year of the sheep are considered tasteful, kind, crafty, caring, sensitive, and polite. They partner well with Boar and Rabbit.
Years: 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
People born in the year of Monkey share an intelligent and witty personality trait, including lucky, smart, charming, and versatile. Their partnership goes long-lasting with Dragon and Rat.
Years: 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Snakes keep their matters private and are known to be ambitious, intelligent, attentive, decisive, organized, and philosophical. Roosters and Ox fit great with Snake.
Years: 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Rabbits are known to be impulsive, modest, sociable, sensitive, emphatic, and sincere. They don’t do good with meditation. Rabbits fit best with Sheep and Boar.
Years: 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023, 2035
Tigers are known to be as courageous, ambitious, confident, charismatic, and enthusiastic. They’re highly unpredictable and can’t be easily distracted from their decided course of action. Tigers fit great with Horse and Dog.
Years: 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022, 2034
The Rat is adaptable, artistic, resourceful, sociable, charming, and intelligent. They’re packed with a curious brain which pushes them always to do something different than the mass. They partner well with Dragon and Monkey.
Years: 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032
Oxen are well-tuned with their work and they’re known for personality traits like strong-built, steady, determined, loyal, reliable, and they think carefully before initiating any action. They’ve been known to have going well with Snake and Rooster.
Years: 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, 2033
Horses run great with Dog and Tiger. They’re loyal, courageous, intelligent, popular, and adventurous.
Years: 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Dragons are taken as imaginative, artistic, charismatic, smart, confident, and eccentric. They’re dominant and have a bad temper. Rat and Monkey go well with Dragon.
Years: 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
5 Cool Chinese New Year Facts
A whopping one-sixth of the world’s population celebrates it
Many regions outside mainstream China find their interest in joining the Chinese New Year celebration. The celebration is also seen in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Philippians, Mauritius, and many countries in North America and Europe.
Sprouting out of the Chinatowns, Chinese New Year has joined the club ‘Most Celebrated Festivals.’
It ushers in the largest human migration around the world
Chinese take the important aspect of the Chinese New Year celebration, which is a reunion every new year, very seriously. To meet their dears they return from all corners of the world to their homeland.
Since most youngsters fancy to stay in the developed urban areas, they migrate internally to catch up with their parents, causing the largest internal migration on earth.
Every year coincides with a Zodiac Animal
Each lunar cycle spans 60 years and its one-fifth division, i.e., 12 years, is considered as a small cycle which, furthermore, is designated an animal sign out of Dragon, Snake, Tiger, Dog, Monkey, Ox, Horse, Sheep, Rooster, and Pig.
According to Chinese mythology, these signs play a pivotal role in deciding the health status, business performance, and relationship success of an individual.
The color red is used in bulk
According to the old stories, Chinese people believed that the red color keeps the evil spirits at bay and contributes to happiness, wealth, and prosperity.
Exercising their long-running tradition, they decorate their houses with red lanterns and red paper cuttings, along with sticking the red paper onto doors and windows. They get dressed in red outfits and lit up the streets by red lanterns.
And…last but not the least
It’s a day devoted to god prayings
In the old days, Spring Festival originally marked the beginning of crop cycles, so people, with the hope of having a good planting and harvesting season, used to pray Gods.
Depicting their ancestors as a messenger returned to the land of God, they also practiced worshipping their forefathers.
Chinese New Year Traditions Food
Chinese take huge pride in the family gathering and that, too, at the occasion of New Year Eve reunion dinner when it’s of sheer importance to have mandatory attendance.
The presence is taken such passionately that if a family member truly can’t attend the dinner eve, a spare set of plate, besides the existing family members, is placed on the dinner table, to notify their absence is being missed.
A myth goes by the monster named Nian, mentioned hereinbefore, who would terrorize the villagers every year and people would hide in a safe shelter, prepare a feast, and pray for their safety.
Arising out of those myths and some commonly shared trend, foods have found a special place in the New Year celebration, as the major dishes which are produced on the evening dinner is now seen as associated with the good health, wellbeing, promotions, hike in salaries, and growth in business.
These are called to hail luck and good fortune for the Chinese people and are majorly eaten during the 16-day festival season of the CNY. It’s not only the dishes matter but also the method of preparation, ways of serving, and eating them mean a lot for Chinese people.
The most important foods for Chinese New Year Eve are dumplings, niangao, steamed chicken and fish, spring rolls, dumplings, and noodles.
Steamed fish is one of the most important New Year Eve Chinese recipes. Chinese translate fish as Yu (鱼) which sounds (to them) like a word for excess and in their interpretation, having fish on the dinner table signifies increment in wealth to them in the next year.
Unlike other cuisines, they usually prefer to either steam or deep fry the fish first and then, they would top the fish with a sweet and sour sauce. The entire fish represents a harmonious family.
Once the fish gets prepared for the dinner, the first half of it is served on the eve dinner and the second half is reserved for the next day. Doing this, they believe, prolong the surplus and create a prosperous future. The top fishes are Crucian Carp, Chinese Mud Carp, and Catfish, among many.
Dumplings have secured a place in the classic Chinese food for over 1,800 years and are a traditional dish served on the eve of Chinese New Year.
Dumplings represent gold ingots and for this reason, they’re common to most Chinese households during the CNY season. The unique design of the dumplings speaks for their place in Chinese cuisine as they believe, eating this would help them generate more wealth and prosperity in the coming year.
What’s filled inside the dumplings and how much one single person consumes, decide the magnitude of rewards one wants to seize, according to the legends.
The filling generally consists of finely chopped vegetables, minced pork, ground chicken, beef, and diced shrimp. As per taste choice of an individual, dumplings can either be fried, steamed, baked, or boiled.
Spring rolls are traditionally accepted Chinese New Year food. Spring roll, which is really an egg roll, has got its name devised from the spring festival.
It’s most popular in East and Southern China. Shaped cylindrical, spring roll is a dim sum dish which consists of a thin dough wrapper stuffed with vegetables, meat, or sweet.
Chinese people find any excuse to gulp one or two dumplings and prefer to eat it as an appetizer, dinner dish, or snack. Chinese deep fry the stuffed cylindrical roll until it turns golden.
Besides deep frying, in some parts of China, steaming or baking is favored as well. Mostly it’s found in the cylindrical shape, but some people don’t fall by the norm side and give the spring roll a small rectangle or large flat circular shape.
Also known as long noodles and Changshou Mian, longevity noodles represent lengthened lifeline and good health, so Chinese people include it in their New Year Menu as a symbol of good luck.
They’re over two feet longer than normal noodles and are served uncut. The purpose is not to look for 2-feet size but to find as long as you could, because longer the noodle, the better.
Breaking of noodles while cooking is taken as a bad omen associated with shortening someone’s life, so extra precaution is maintained to keep the length intact. It’s usually served either boiled or fried, with a variety of seafood to enhance the taste.
Sweet Rice Balls
Tangyuan, or sweet rice balls, is mostly eaten on the 15th and the 16th day of the Spring Festival. The rice balls contain sweet filling and are boiled in water for cooking. It is also called soup spheres as the sweet rice balls are dipped in sweet syrup or broth before eating.
Its Chinese name (汤圆) sounds like a reunion and for this reason, behind the making of sweet rice balls, there is a message that the circular shape of the rice balls represents the completion and unity of the family. For its hot characteristics, it’s usually prepared and enjoyed in the winter season.
Firework: why is it ban now?
The inception of the Chinese New Year celebration sparks off from the bravery saga of a boy who used to keep a monster, which would appear somehow at the eve of every new year, at bay, using the fireworks.
Next day, people enjoying their safety and survival would set off more fireworks. And from there, the trend repeated year by year. Since China leads the world in terms of population, one can imagine why a record high fireworks are set off on the eve of every new year.
But…the firework is partially banned now. Facing the fierce challenges associated with the incremental pollution hazards, the Chinese government has put a ban on fireworks.
Beijing has had fireworks banned for 13 years, but the anger of citizens brought the government to back foot and so, the ban was lifted in 2006. Around 500 minor to major cities have still got fireworks restrictions.
The firecrackers are infamous for producing noise nuisance and a sheet of red paper shreds all around the houses; however, Chinese people find joy in setting off the firecrackers and take it in their stride, without complaining about the air pollution.
This tradition is shared all over the country and because of distinct beliefs, the timing of setting off firecrackers differs from region to region.
- As the New Year hits the clock, people welcome its arrival with a cacophony of fireworks and firecrackers, all around. There you won’t find a mini second for which the sound of car alarms and vibrations in the sky-high buildings would go off.
- Before New Year’s Eve dinner: Chinese celebrate the New Year in their own style. When the reunion dinner gets ready, all family members gather up to lit the firecrackers, as they believe doing so sparks off an invitation to their ancestors, to celebrate the moment of happiness together.
- At midnight as the New Year arrives: Traditionally, at the completion of reunion dinner, Chinese people stay up until midnight to set off firecrackers at the stroke of midnight. Doing this fills them with confidence that evil spirits won’t cause problems to them for this year.
- New Year’s Day morning: Following their centuries-old tradition, Chinese people set off firecrackers before stepping out, as they take it as a thing of good luck. People avoid sweeping away the red shreds of firecrackers compiled all around, believing that sweeping this would also sweep their wealth away.
Travel Tips During CNY
Luckily, there is a relief that can soothe your exponentially rising curiosity. Chinese New Year, apart from creating hype of collective entropy by the Chinese celebration, don’t stand in the path of travelers, generally.
The entire chain of businesses run intact and only a few temporarily pull out their contribution, for moving out of the city to meet their near and dear ones. The major institutions hold their position and run dry for only selected periods on which the celebration mood is at the peak.
So, what is it like to step into a pond that’s severely tremored by the shake of its own constituting particles? Simply putting, to what magnitude could, and would, travel during the Chinese New Year affects your spontaneous or a well-planned itinerary?
The answer is not something anybody would be ready to rumble. But, if there come the preparations that this guide helps you walk through, your travel would definitely be a piece of cake.
Is it possible to travel to China during the Chinese New Year?
Yes, indeed, but brace yourself with a potential thought set up to bear the hiked fares and overcrowded transportations. Chinese move from their place of work to hometowns once a year.
The crowd that accumulates as a result of international and internal migration, depicts an exodus that overwhelms first-time visitors. The terminals and the railway stations get flooded with people heading home to meet their elderly parents, eat dumplings, and celebrate.
How difficult is it to book tickets?
A wise man would begin making travel bookings at about sixty days before the Chinese New Year booking madness takes on the whole of China by storm.
Of course, the rates would severely multiply and you can’t complain about it. The top hotels get booked way before the blink of an eye, so it’s obvious to not let go of a single opportunity that you get by chance.
It’s ideal to make bookings two to four months ahead, so as not to get yourself trapped in the human jungle everywhere. For the last-minute travel bookings, it’s hard to acquire those precious arrangements as those come with its own monopoly of premium paying.
Train yourself to be tolerant and fall by the lively spirit side
The problems with traveling are obvious but when you’re visiting China during CNY, you should have elevated patience and a cheerful spirit bundled within you, to not give the fellow travelers a hiccup or some weird look. On the flip side, being more cheerful and patient, you can have fun even if you’re stuck in a crowd, or in an unexpectedly packed train tour.
You know some extrovert guys who don’t see ‘you and I’ and jump into a conversation without an intention to unearth the in-depth details. All they do so to not let the drawbacks of travel tiresome dominate them.
You can roll the same sort of dices to keep yourself up and motivated. If this strategy doesn’t amuse you, there are saunas all over in big cities of China where you can get a relaxing massage, to relieve the stress.
Where to find an authentic view of fireworks?
This is common to all places and you won’t have to move to a specific place to witness fireworks. In fact, it will be best to have a stay in a hotel with a big glass window through which you can get a wide visual.
Is it cold during the Chinese New Year?
Yes. Some parts of China face extreme cold and rain during the CNY time. It would be great to have some warm clothes and put a blanket in the luggage bag, to combat the teeth-shivering temperature as you move from one region to another.
Also, some parts of China face unexpected rain during this season, so having an umbrella won’t attract eyes.