10 things you didn’t know about Chinese New Year
Tuesday, 7th December 2010
With so many Chinese communities around the world, it's good to learn about events and festivities celebrated within the Chinese culture - like New Year, for example.
1. The date of Chinese New Year is based on the Chinese lunar calendar and falls sometime in January or February each year. For example, the Year of the Tiger began on 14th February 2010, and the Year of the Rabbit will start on 3rd February 2011.
2. Years in the Chinese calander are named after 12 different animals – the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Each animal is associated with a particular element – water, wood, fire or metal – and particular characteristics are associated each animal and the people born during the year of each animal. I was born during the Year of the Dog, for example, and dogs are associated with such characteristics as honesty, intelligence, loyalty, sociability and so on.
3. A group of 12 years is a Great Year, five Great Years is a Cycle, and 60 Cycles is an Epoch (3,600 years). 2009 is year 4706 for example.
4. Chinese New Year is celebrated on the first day of the first month and the celebrations continue for two weeks.
5. As well as being celebrated in China and Taiwan, it is also marked among Overseas Chinese communities, and in Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Bhutan, Vietnam and Japan.
6. Chinese New Year is a time when people return to their hometowns to celebrate with their families, so is not a good time to travel in places with large Chinese populations as everybody seems to be on the move.
7. During the festivities doors and windows are decorated with phrases related to happiness, wealth and longevity written or printed on red paper.
8. Before New Year people clean their houses thoroughly, which is believed to sweep away any bad luck. They also buy new clothes and shoes, and get their hair cut, all of which symbolise a fresh start.
9. On New Year’s Eve families have a big meal together. This may include fish, dumplings, and a special kind of cake.
10. On the first day of the New Year many people, especially Buddhists, abstain from eating meat, a practise which is thought to ensure a long life. The older members of each family give the children and younger members presents of money in red envelopes, and people visit their elderly relatives.