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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Illustrated A-Z Guide to Chinese New Year

Source: Pentauser - London's Chinatown in  2011

What Is Chinese New Year?

An important public holiday for overseas Chinese diaspora and native Chinese people in China and Hong Kong celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. In China, it is called the 'Spring Festival'. The holiday was a time to honor family and ancestors. With the adoption of the (Gregorian) Western calendar in China in 1912, the Chinese joined in to celebrate January 1st New Years Day. 

The first day of the Chinese New Day is the first month of the traditional Chinese calendar, the lunisolar calendar, where the date indicates both the moon phase and time of the solar year (Chinese New Years Info)

Chinese New Year runs from the end of January until mid/late February every year and it is an occasion for Chinese families to meet up. However, not all countries celebrate it at the same time, and not all countries celebrating it start and finish on the same day - in the U.S and Canada it runs for 15 days, the UK for 3 days and Australia for 7 days. 

This year in 2015, the Spring festival falls on Thursday February 19. We also have a Mid-Autumn festival that begins in either early or late September every year, but it is tends to be relatively low key in comparison to the Spring festival. 

The Chinese zodiac calendar is made up of 12 different animal symbols representing each set of years that are marked with characteristics of each animal, the Ox, Rat, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Monkey, Sheep, Rooster, Tiger, Goat, Dog & Pig. Your Chinese zodiac animal sign is correspondent to your year of birth. 

In the run up to the new year celebrations, homes are cleaned to help rid of evil spirits and bad luck, which may have arisen during the previous year, as well as decorate their doors with Red decorations. Elders gave money to children, hence the red envelopes containing money. These 'rituals' that were carried out were meant to bring in good luck ( 

In some instances, there will be a religious ceremony honoring heaven, earth, family ancestors and gods.

Like Christmas, Chinese New Year is a time of spreading goodwill, happiness and good fortune; it is in many ways our version of Christmas, as many - if not all Chinese are not Christians. 

Why do we celebrate it?

The origins of the new year festivities are based on century old stories and folk tales. Many years ago, there was a small village, where during every Lunar New Year's Eve, it would be terrorized by a dragon called 'Nian' - a Chinese word that translates to 'Year'. One year, villagers discovered that if they put up red decorations around their homes & set off fire crackers to create loud noises, it would help drive away the dragon, Nian and he would stop attacking them (Why Do We Celebrate Chinese New Year)

But Chinese New Year is also about Chinese people spending time with family and friends and celebrating and spreading our culture, eating Chinese food, receiving and exchanging gifts, watching the spring festival gala - which is the equivalent to the Thanksgiving day parade in the U.S - playing mahjong (something I don't do) and talking about their plans for the remaining year. 

Ancestors - honoring and paying respect to the dead by lighting incense and burning papers 

Source: Chinese Family Adventure 

Bell ringing 

The bell tolls at Hanshan Temple in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China 2009 

Source: Xinhua & China Daily 


Decorations hung outside doors to bring good luck, spring couplets 

Evil spirits


Get together with family 

Source: Web Certain 

House cleaning

Incense burning - In China, burning incense sticks is a form of communicating with the Gods and spirits. 


Kung Hei Fat Choi (Happy new year in Chinese Mandarin), Gung Hei Fat Choi (Happy new year in Chinese Cantonese) 

Lion dance

Source: Pok Ching Hai 


New year's eve dinner 

Oranges - along with tangerines are considered symbols in Chinese culture. Tangerines in Chinese means Luck, Oranges in Chinese means wealth. The Orange colour also denotes Gold, henceforth, it is a meaning of good luck and wealth (Cultural China)

Image Source: Sead Sweet

Public holiday 


Red envelopes and lanterns, Red is a symbol of good luck in Chinese culture 


Spring festival 


UK, USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand - countries with huge Chinese communities and which have China towns in various regions and cities that celebrate Chinese New Year




Year of the (fill name of animal)


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