This year, the Chinese New Year will officially begin on February 12th, 2021. Chinese New Year is one of the most important festivals in China. Today, it's commonly referred to as 'Spring Festival.' Chinese New Year is not only the beginning of the new year but also spring! It is a week-long rest period in China. It's time to spend with family and loved ones, along with starting the year off on a positive note. Filled with symbolism, rituals, and feasts, Chinese New Year is one of the best times of the year in China and worldwide. Good fortune, happiness, wealth, and longevity are some of the themes honored and celebrated. Many people don't know about Chinese New Year, so we're here to help. Here are nine incredible facts you may or may not have known about the great festival.
THE CNY DATE CHANGES EVERY YEAR
Chinese New Year follows the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. The new year's date is determined by the first moon, which falls between January 21st to February 20th. Chinese New Year is celebrated for 16 days. However, only seven days are a public holiday.
There are numerous ways to dress festive for the Chinese new year. Traditionally, women wear a qipao or a cheongsam. Men traditionally wear a changpao, which is a male version of a cheongsam. Most importantly, it's a must to wear festive bright colors! Red is the most festive and lucky color to wear on Chinese New Year. It symbolizes good luck and fortune. Traditionally, it's also believed that red can scare away evil spirits. The colors to avoid are black and white. Black and white symbolize mourning and death, which are not approbated or festive for the new year. It's also customary to wear new clothes during the festival. New clothes symbolize a new beginning for the new year!
REUNION DINNER CNY EVE
A reunion dinner is traditionally held on the eve of Chinese New Year. Family members come together to celebrate the festive occasion with a feast. The Chinese New Year reunion dinner is a special time to spend with family and loved ones, especially those living far apart. Some make long journeys home to be in time for the eve of Chinese New Year, which often occurs at the home of the most elderly family member. The dinner typically lasts for a long period, starting in the late afternoon, lasting through midnight, and into the early morning. Traditional Chinese dishes are served, and fun activities are enjoyed, like watching the amazing fireworks broadcasted on CCTV and in the night sky.
DIFFERENT ZODIAC ANIMAL EACH YEAR
A different Chinese Zodiac animal represents each Chinese New Year. There are 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Every person has their Chinese zodiac, which is determined by the year of their birth. Each animal in the zodiac has its characteristics, just like western astrology. 2021 is the year of the ox. The ox has traits such as patience, kindness, stubbornness, and conservative ways of living.
BIGGEST TRAVEL RUSH IN CHINA
Chinese New Year is known as the "Great Migration." It's the largest annual human migration, and it grows each year. 2021 will, of course, see fewer people traveling because of the epidemic. Millions of Chinese folks travel during this time, most returning to their hometowns to reunite with their family. The Chinese New Year travel season usually begins 15 days before New Year's day and lasts for about 40 days. A reported 79 million passengers traveled by air in 2020. If you're in China during the New Year, make sure to plan your holiday, and best to plan your Chinese New Year travels far ahead, and avoid popular sites in China unless you love crowds.
LUCKY CHINESE FOODS
It's customary to eat traditional Chinese food during Chinese New Year. Some of these conventional foods are considered 'lucky foods.' The foods include dumplings, fish, tang yuan (glutinous sweet rice balls), noodles, wontons, spring rolls, and oranges. Each of these lucky foods symbolizes something different. Long noodles represent longevity. Dumplings symbolize wealth and good luck because their shapes resemble ancient Chinese gold coins.
Giving gifts is always great. Well, maybe not unlucky gifts. It's important to note that some gifts are considered unlucky during Chinese New Year. Most give without knowing, so we'll save you the awkwardness. Some of them are clocks, shoes, sharp objects, the number 4, pears, cut flowers, mirrors, handkerchiefs, and umbrellas. All these objects have the significance of being an unlucky gift. A clock, for example, symbolizes running out of time. The number four in Chinese (Sì) sounds similar to the mandarin word for death (sǐ). So, it's very unlucky to give anything which is associated with the number 4.
TRADITIONAL CLEANING RITUALS
There are numerous rituals practiced before and during the Chinese New Year. One of the many important traditions leading up to Chinese New Year is a thorough house cleaning! To wash away any evil spirits and bring luck, one must make sure to sweep the floors, dust, and scrub! We want to start the New Year as fresh and clean as possible. Sweeping and cleaning the house makes room for all incoming good luck and ridding of any ill-fortune. However, it's important to note all cleaning stops on the first day of Chinese New Year! Cleaning is avoided on New Year's day to avoid sweeping away any new good fortune.
GIVING MONEY IN RED ENVELOPES
It's a tradition to gift bright, beautiful red envelopes (Hongbao) to friends and family. Employers often give red envelopes to employees for the Chinese New Year, too. The red envelopes are filled with money to symbolize best wishes and luck for the new year. It's also a ritual to put crisp new bills inside and no coins. Avoid gifts in amounts of 4, and best if the amount starts or ends with 8, like 800 yuan. As for proper receiving etiquette, always accepts red envelopes with both hands. It's impolite to take with just one hand. The money inside the envelopes is considered "lucky money," but it's completely okay to spend it! Hongbao can even be sent on WeChat, too, just in case you won't get to see loved ones for the holidays.
There's so much more to learn about Chinese New Year. In the end, the absolute perfect way to spend Chinese New Year is with family and friends, bringing in the new year with complete joy and good fortune. Being aware of certain customs and rituals will make the experience that much more authentic and happy. Happy Chinese New Year!