Chinese New Year falls between mid-January and mid February. Each new year date is different from the western calendar. Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festival in Chinese culture. It celebrates 15 days in the first month of the Lunar calendar.
Chinese New Year has been celebrated for thousands of years. Some customs and beliefs have lost the traditional backgrounds over time and have become mysteries and legends. In fact Chinese New Year was originally a reflection on how Chinese took care each other, and on what they believe. Besides China, Chinese New Year celebration has influenced its geographic neighbours as well as their cultures and traditions.
In China provincial customs regarding the celebration are widely different. Traditionally people do a lot of shopping, gifts, clothing, decoration materials and food. Every family cleans the house thoroughly. Cleaning house has a significance in that it means to sweep away bad luck during the year and welcomes the good fortune in the new year. The doors and windows are decorated with red paper-cuts and couplets with themes of “Peace”, “Wealth”, “Harmony”, “Health”, “Longevity”, etc.
The most important is the New Year Eve family feast. Everyone has to come home for dinner even if they are miles away. Some families wait till late in the evening for the last one to be home. Food will range from vegetables, chicken, duck, pork, rice and sweet delicacies. Everyone tries to keep awake until the new year. This vigil is for parents’ longevity. Usually there are firecrackers after midnight to keep people coming around.
There are Chinese New Year flower markets to sell everything to prepare for the new year. The market starts a few days before New Year until the morning of New Year Day. There are flowers and plants in season, decorations, toys, etc. Many families go to the market after the New Year Eve feast.
The New Year Day, people wear new dress, red is popular. Children serve tea and greet their parents. The most common New Year greeting is “Kung Hei Fat Choi” (Cantonese) or “Gong Xi Fa Cai” (Mandarin), which means prosperity and wealth. Parents give red packets to children. These usually contain coins and are a symbol of good fortune.
Most people do not eat meat on New Year Day or at least till after lunch. It was said that to save the animal (mainly poultry), not to kill on New Year Day. In fact this is because the New Year Eve family feast had too much meat in it.
Families bring gifts to visit neighbours, friends and extended family. They are cordially welcomed. The purpose of the New Year visit is to keep in contact, forget any resentments and wish peace, harmony and happiness for all for the coming year.
Most businesses close for the New Year. Chinese New Year is the only break time for many businesses. During the celebration period, schools or associations of Chinese martial arts organise a lion dance to visit houses and shops for the community. It is believed the lion dance brings in good luck to the business and safety for the household. The performers are given red packets.
It is said animals were created in the new year. Birthdays for animal are:
1st New Year day: chicken
2nd New Year day: dog
3rd New Year day: pig
4th New Year day: sheep
5th New Year day: ox
6th New Year day: horse
7th New Year day: human
People were created on the 7th day in the new year. It is called “Everyone’s Birthday” or “Human Day”. The day is a special celebration in the New Year period. Family gather together. In the evening meal, vegetables and fish are served for good health and the meal is finished with sweets.
After the 7th day in the New Year, visits and lion dance quieten down. Businesses prepare to reopen and families are about to start their crops.
The 15th day from the new year day is another festival in the Chinese calendar, Yuen Xiao Festival, means Lantern Festival. Some people wrongly believe the Moon Festival is also called Lantern Festival. In fact, the 15th day of the Chinese New Year is Lantern Festival. This is an evening festival and finishes off the Chinese New Year celebrations. In the evening community areas set up with stalls of lanterns, snacks, crafts, etc. Lanterns with riddles to be solved on them are highlights.
It is believed that women who fail to fall pregnant, can buy a particular lantern at this evening, light it and bring home. After this they will conceive.
The Chinese Zodiac is a systematic plan. The plan is based on the traditional astronomy and calendars. There are 365.2422 days in a year, that is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 16 seconds. It does not calculate the position of the sun, moon and planets at the time of birth. Chinese Astrology is the oldest chronological record in history, dating back over 3,000 years ago.
A 12 animal cycle circulates in a 5 elemental cycle, rotates within the 2 principles of nature, and combines the 10 heavenly stems and 12 earthly branches to form a 60 term cycle or Sexagenary Cycle, the Chinese calendar.
The 12 animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
The 5 elements are Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth.
The principles of nature are Yin and Yang
10 heavenly stems are Jia, Yi, Bing, Ding, Wu, Ji, Geng, Xin, Ren and Gui
12 earthly branches are Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao, Chen, Si, Wu, Wei, Shen, You, Xu, Hai.
Year of Horse
2014 Chinese New Year
Metal element: Wood
Principle in nature: Yang
Heaven stem: Jia
Earthly branch: Wu
The horse is important in China. The horse is a symbol of power. They are elegant, stylish, and graceful. It is also a symbol for champion, success, and the racing competition. Horses carry heavy things and provide fast transport. Nowadays the horse is still an essential transport vehicle in the remote regions. The Horse also plays great role in military and warfare.
Most farm animals are killed for their flesh. But it is not common to slaughter horses in China. Horse is inspiration for the arts, and its role as pet of companion.
There are different opinions about the personality of a person who was born in the year of horse. However everyone is unique but has some characteristics similar to others.
Download our factsheet on lucky red packets to find out how to make your own.