National Days & Customs

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Chinese New Year

Today marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year 🧧 This year we’re celebrating the Year of the Ox 🐂

oriental lights for Chinese new year

It’s Chinese New Year and this year, it’s the year of the Ox. In China, the day is usually celebrated with bright decorations, exchanging little red envelopes of money, eating dinner with the family on New Year’s Eve and watching fireworks and firecrackers.

More than 20% of the world’s population celebrate Chinese New Year and it’s the most important annual holiday in China and this year, we’re celebrating the year of the Ox. To mark the festivities, we’ve put together 7 interesting facts that you may not have known about Chinese New Year.

2021 is the Year of the Metal Ox

So, what is meant by the year of the Ox? Well, the Chinese Zodiac gives each year a specific animal sign. There are 12 animals on the zodiac including, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig and rat and each animal appear once every 12 years.

The second animal on the Chinese Zodiac, the ox is said to being hard work, positivity, and honesty over the next 12 months. The ox is said to be loyal and gentle and trustworthy – something we all need in the midst of the pandemic.

However, as well as the 12 zodiac animals (also known as earthly branches), five elements including wood, fire, metal, earth, and water which are an integral part of the Chinese calendar and meaning behind the New Year. This year is metal, hence the Year of the Metal Ox. It would take 60 years to complete a full cycle of the Chinese calendar.

1. The Spring Festival

In China, Chinese New Year is more commonly known as the Spring Festival – even though it’s wintertime when the celebration occurs. This is because the holiday marks the end of the coldest months, bringing with it a time for new beginnings and the planting of crops ready for harvest.

2. Chinese New Year Lasts 15 days

This year, Chinese New Year will be from the 12th of February all the way to the 26th of February but only the first seven days are classed as a public holiday in China.

Additionally, there is no set date for the New Year celebrations and can range from the January 21st to February the 20th. This is because the holiday is based on the lunar calendar and when the new moon appears, rather than the solar calendar we’re used to in the UK.  

3. The Origins of Chinese New Year are Legendary

It’s said that a monster named Nian (which translates to Year) would raid and attack the villages at the start of each new year. However, the monster was terrified of loud noises, the colour red, and bright lights – so fireworks and red lanterns were used to chase Nian away.

4. The Traditions of Chinese New Year

There are a number of things the Chinese do to prepare for the New Year celebrations. Including:

  • Thorough cleaning of the household, to cleanse any lingering bad luck.
  • Younger people are gifted red envelopes filled with money.
  • The lantern festival involves people hanging red lanterns out of their windows.
  • Celebrations take place to honour deceased family members.
  • A dragon is the Chinese symbol of good fortune so typically a dragon dance is performed to highlight the festival.

5. Most Celebrations Take Place in the Home

Most of the 15-day holiday tends to take place at home as the traditions of very family-oriented. However, as everyone (It’s estimated 200 million Chinese undertake long journeys each New Year) travels around the country to visit their relatives this can cause chaos on the Chinese transport system. This migration of people is the largest in the world, which is why it’s also commonly known as the Spring Migration.

6. “Xinnian Kuaile”

“Xinnian Kuaile” is the Chinese expression for Happy New Year. This is a common way to greet strangers and acquaintances during the festivities. It’s pronounced as “sshin-nyen kwhy-luh” and is said to pass on good luck and fortune.

7. Traditional Foods Eaten

There are a wide range of traditional food eaten during this holiday. Some popular favourites amongst the Chinese include:

  • Fish – is said to increase in prosperity,
  • Sticky rice cakes – for family togetherness,
  • Dumplings – for wealth,
  • Noodles – provide happiness and longevity,
  • Fruit like tangerines and oranges – Fullness and Wealth.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all those celebrating the world-wide holiday! 

We know things are a little different this year, so however, you’re celebrating – we hope you’re able to see your family members and friends and enjoy your favourite food, fireworks, and lanterns with lots of good fortune.

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