22 Things you didn't know About the Chinese New Year
We’ve got one New Year down, now just one more to go! It all begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice, and ends on the full moon fifteen days later. We’ve got monsters, superstition, dumplings, money and fire involved. Sounds like a party you won’t want to miss. With the Chinese New Year coming up on February 5th, you’re going to want to keep reading so you know what all the commotion’s about.
Here we’ve outlined 22 amazing facts about the Chinese New Year that you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know!
(1) It’s the longest Chinese holiday.
Technically speaking, the Chinese New Year lasts fifteen days. That is unless you want to include New Year's Eve, which is when good times officially start. That's sixteen days of celebration! It’s safe to say it’s a celebration worth looking forward to.
(2) Happy Spring Festival! 🌼
The Chinese New Year marks the beginning start of spring, so it’s also known as The Spring Festival. This means the coldest days of winter will have finally come to an end. People all around welcome new beginnings, harvests, and abundance.
(3) It’s the most explosive celebration in the world.
China is not only the biggest producer of fireworks, but they also have the most prominent display of them too. On the Lunar New Years Eve, it get pretty loud. The tradition of setting off firecrackers to scare off monsters, evil spirits and most importantly bad luck.
(4) You will hear “Guo Nian Hao” everywhere.
“Nian” is the Chinese word for “Year.” (It also happens to be the name of the heartless monster who according to ancient legend, is defenseless around the color red and loud popping noises.) “Guo Nian” means the passing of a year. Look at that, you know some Chinese! Isn’t Mandarin so easy? 😂
(5) Ever heard of the Spring Festival Travel Rush?
Apparently, there are so many people traveling to meet back home for the New Years Eve (family reunion) dinner, that the Spring Festival has caused the most significant human migration in the world. I mean, 1.4 billion people celebrate the Chinese New Year. And nearly three billion trips are made over a 15-day timeframe. Not surprised there’s a hold-up!
(6) The (Reunion) Dinner is non-negotiable 🥢
Out of the whole 15 days of celebration, there’s one night in particular that ties everything together. On New Year's Eve, multiple generations gather together as a family and share a wonderful meal. Traditionally, dinner would be composed of eight different dishes, as the number eight is considered to be a symbol of wealth, fortune and prosperity. This night is so important because it brings everyone back to basics in time to prepare for the new year that’s to come.
(7) Cleaning is a key factor in observing the New Year.
Showering, sleeping, and throwing out the garbage isn't allowed before the New Year. This is so to not wash away the bad luck. Now, on the other hand, there is a day before the Spring Festival dedicated to cleaning. This serves to sweep away the bad luck and make room for good. Cleaning out your house and decluttering your home from things you no longer need is like a tall glass of water after a long run. It’s necessary, purposeful and satisfying! 🛁
(8) Better safe than sorry.
As it turns out, the Chinese seem to be very superstitious indeed. There are countless taboos, telling you all these things you need to do so you don’t attract bad vibes. Being firm believers in luck and superstition, the Chinese swear that what you do during the New Year period, will, in fact, affect your luck for the rest of the year. They recommend not to eat porridge on the first day of the new year, wash your hair, buy shoes, buy a book, take medicine, wash clothes, sweep the floor, make a baby cry, borrow money, wear white or black, and definitely stay away from sharp tools that could hurt you. Simple enough, right? 🧐
(9) Do not fear, we have firecrackers here!
As beautiful as the spring festival can be, it may surprise you to know that this holiday was born from an ancient, rooted fear of Nian. Also meaning “year” in Mandarin; Nian (a terrible beast) would come out on the first day of the year to frighten the locals, steal their crops, and sometimes even their children. A wise old sage advised the townspeople to scare away the monster with loud noises from fireworks, drums and a whole lot of RED. Apparently, it worked, because over six hundred years later the traditions stay the same! Why change what's already perfect?
(10) Money can buy you... wealth? 💵
Chinese (Hongbao) Red envelopes or packets are lovingly gifted out to children, friends, employees or coworkers. The reason why they’re red is because the color symbolizes energy and wealth. They’ll come filled with nice crisp bills. Old wrinkled cash shows signs of laziness. This money is supposed to help transfer fortune from one person to another. Children receive lots of red packets since it makes sense for their elders to trickle down wealth into the lives of their family.
Pro tip: If you receive an envelope, accept it with both hands and make sure to open it in private.
(11) Dumpling? Don’t mind if I do. 🥟
A Chinese dumpling is one of the most essential foods throughout the New Year. Technically, they should be eaten at every meal, but it doesn't always play out this way. None-the-less, getting the whole family together for a dumpling feast is a perfect way to wave goodbye the previous year. The best part is the old tradition where people hide lucky coins inside the dumplings as they’re being made. If you find a coin, it is to bring more luck and wealth than anybody in this next year. Just make sure not to chow down too hard, that little coin may not be enough to pay for a dental visit.
(12) Most everything means something, and it’s sweet!
There are so many Chinese New Year desserts, and they aren't just a combination of ingredients. They are symbolic and prepared with real intention. Some of these treats may seem so strange to an outsider, but they’re definitely super fun to look at! Check out some typical Chinese New Year desserts and their meanings here.
(13) It’s a World Wide Celebration.
Out of every five people in the world, one of them is Chinese. The may seem like a lot, but the number is actually higher than that. Millions of Chinese descendants still celebrate these holidays, and for a good reason too. There are major cities all around the world claiming to host the biggest Spring Festival celebrations outside of Asia. If you’re searching for an authentic gathering, check out London, Sydney, or San Francisco. But even if you can’t make it, your local Chinatown would be lucky to have you! 🌏
(14) Every year has a zodiac animal.
2019 is the year of the Pig 🐷! Rather than having one zodiac per month, Chinese culture has the animal for the whole year. It seems that in China your animal has a lot to say when it comes to defining your career, health and relationship success. Make sure you know your zodiac.
(15) The Spring Festival ends with the Lantern Festival.
This day lands on the first full moon of the lunar year. It’s the official “Party” night everyone is thankful for. As important as family is, it’s so nice to go out and be free too. Speaking of freedom, back in ancient China, women weren't allowed to walk outside by themselves, but on this night specifically, they were allowed to do as they pleased. Power to the woman!
(16) Every New Year lands on a different day.
The Chinese New Year falls between January 21 and February 20th. It’s running based off the Lunar calendar and not the Solar calendar, so when you try to calculate it in accordance to the sun, the date goes all over the place. This year of 2019, New Year lands on February 5!
(17) The year that lands on your Zodiac is bad luck.
The year of your zodiac animal is your benming year. Out of the twelve-year cycle, it is the one that is least in your favor. Thankfully, there’s a method to this madness. Apparently, because your benming year is your rebirth year, you are weak and (according to general beliefs) children, and yourself can be taken by demons. Wearing the color red gives you your strength back. Some people will wear red underwear all year! Other’s choose jewelry, insoles, pants, you name it.
(18) Red here, there, and everywhere. 🎒
The Chinese do not play around when it comes to superstition. Neither when it comes to decor. Much less when it’s combined! Red is on the color contract, and it’s on everything. Remember Nian, the terrifying monster? Not only is he afraid of loud sounds, but the color red is his ultimate weakness.
(19) It is a day for praying to the gods.
Formerly a ceremonial day to pray to the gods for a good harvest and planting season, the Spring Festival’s primary purpose was making sure everything that was growing, grew well. People prayed to both the gods and their ancestors to ensure this outcome.
(20) Not any ordinary cherry.🍒
If you want to give a super special gift for the New Year, opt for something that isn't made in China. Imported Cherries (usually Chilean) have become a premium gift along with many other imported red fruit. Red represents luck, happiness, and celebration in many places all throughout Asia. It’s no wonder they want it all around!
(21) White clothes are a bad omen.
This one is a little hard to get. Considering the color white is related to the light, pureness, cleanliness, and innocence in the western world, it’s strange to think that both black and white are associated with mourning. Red and any colorful clothes are the most favorable to wear for this time of year. 🥋
(22) Most important holiday in Chinese Culture.
We’re all different and have our own unique perspectives, but it’s quite clear that this Chinese New Year event is one everybody’s waiting for. I mean, I’m not even Asian but there’s no way i’m going to miss out on some spring cleaning and dumplings!
Don’t wait for the Spring Festival Travel Rush! Start planning now and give yourself the gift of another new year. China is huge, it’s rich in culture, and they know how to welcome new beginnings. For starters, eat dumplings and clean everything so you can start fresh. Pack a photographer today and witness the culture and excitement that new experiences can bring into your life.
Let us know if you enjoyed this edition of our “Travel Tips” series and leave a comment telling us what your zodiac is!