1. Chinese New Year – also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival – is the most important celebration that takes place in China and other parts of Asia every year. Almost a quarter of the world’s population (that’s about two billion people!) celebrate it in some way.
2. Unlike Western celebrations, which often follow the Gregorian calendar, the date of the Lunar New Year is calculated according to the lunisolar calendar. It begins on the date of the new moon which usually appears sometime between 21 January and 20 February. This year, in 2023, it falls on Sunday 22 January and the celebration will last for 16 days.
3. The origins of the Chinese New Year can be traced back to around 3,500 years ago. The legend goes there was a mythical beast called Nian who would come to a village every new year and attack the people. But then a wise old man discovered that Nian was afraid of loud noises and the colour red. And therefore, the people of today decorate their houses in red (which is considered a very lucky colour in China) and set off firecrackers.
4. Typically, in the week leading up to New Year, people will clean their homes from top to bottom. This is to sweep away last year’s bad luck and make room for the good.
5. The family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve is the most important part of the celebrations. Millions of people travel across the country every year to be with their loved ones for this reunion. It’s known as chunyun (春运), or Spring Migration.
6. The reunion dinner includes many dishes that are said to bring good luck including fish, dumplings, spring rolls, sweet rice balls, glutinous rice cake, noodles, and fruits that are golden in colour.
7. It is tradition to exchange gifts, and these are usually only given to children and senior family members. The most common gift is a red envelope which contains money. The amount of money can range from a few pounds to several hundred but it’s important the monetary value never includes the number four which is considered bad luck.
8. On the 15th day of the celebrations to mark the end of the Lunar New Year, people release glowing lanterns up into the sky or onto rivers or the sea in what is known as the Chinese Lantern Festival.
9. If you’re ever lucky enough to attend a Chinese New Year parade, you’ll probably see lion and dragon dances that involve people holding spectacular costumes up on poles or dressed up as animals. Both lions and dragons are thought to bring prosperity and good luck.
10. You’re possibly familiar with your horoscope zodiac sign, but did you know there is a Chinese zodiac? There are 12 signs, and all take the form of animals. However, instead of one for each month, the animal is for the entire year. In order, the Chinese zodiac signs are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. This year will be the Year of the Rabbit.