8 things you need to know about Chinese New Year 

CEBU CITY, Philippines — On February 10, the world will say goodbye to the Year of the Rabbit and welcome the Year of the Dragon.

Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year) is among the most celebrated events in Chinese communities in Asia and the rest of the world since it marks another year with hopes of festivity.

8 interesting facts about Chinese New Year

Here are some interesting tidbits about the festive event to help you better celebrate Chinese New Year.

1. Spring festival

Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival or Chūn Jié (春节) as it starts at the beginning of spring. The Chinese follow a lunisolar calendar, with the new year starting on the new moon (xin yue, 新月). The celebration goes on for 15 days or ends on the full moon (满月) or 15 days later. The Lantern Festival(元宵节)is celebrated on the 15th day of the new year when the night is lit up with lantern parades and displays.

2. Animal signs

The Chinese zodiac, or Sheng Xiao, follows a 12-year cycle of animal signs and attributes. The zodiac animals, in order, are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

Aside from the start of the new moon, the Chinese New Year also signifies the transition to the next animal and the next attribute. February 10, 2024, is the start of the year of the Dragon, while the next Chinese New Year will occur on January 29, 2025.

3. Red envelopes

What’s the deal with red envelopes or hóng bāo (红包)?

Chinese traditional stories point to a story where a beast named Nian (also the same word as the Chinese word for “year”) is said to prey on villagers on the night before the new year. To scare Nian away, people made noise (firecrackers and drum beats) and hung red decorations. Red is said to be a lucky color because it drives away the monster.

The red envelope, also called lai see and âng pau, is a way of wishing good luck and sharing blessings. It is given to children and unmarried, single members of the family.

READ: Chinese New Year traditions in the Philippines

4. Fish and abundance

The Chinese word for fish is “yú” (鱼), which also sounds like the same word for “surplus” (yú 余). There is a saying that goes “Nián nián yǒu yú (年年有余) which translates to: “May you always have more than you need!”

Other food times served on Chinese New Year dinners include dumplings, spring rolls, rice cake, and longevity noodles.

5. Greetings for the Chinese New Year

Here’s a quick rundown of all greetings for Chinese New Year—some of which, you may have seen in streamers around the city.

Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái (恭喜发财) means “Wishing you wealth and prosperity”

Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! (新年快乐) means “Happy New Year!”

Xīn Xiǎng Shì Chéng (心想事成) means “May all your wishes come true.”

Shēng Yì Xīng lóng (生意兴隆) means “May your business flourish.”

Shēn Tǐ Jiàn Kāng(身体健康) means “Wishing you good health.”

6. Family reunion

Cebuanos thinking of going to major cities in China like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou may be surprised to find empty roads and shops during Chinese New Year.

In China, the event is celebrated for 15 days, making it the longest holiday in China. City dwellers go home to their respective provinces during this time to reunite with family over New Year’s Eve dinner. This is called chunyun (春运) or spring migration.

The only downside to traveling on these dates is that many stores are closed for the holiday.

7. Desserts served during Chinese New Year

Nián gāo (年糕) is a dessert popular during Chinese New Year. The dessert, which translates to “year cake” or New Year cake, is made of brown sugar and glutinous rice flour. It is round and sticky which symbolizes completeness and togetherness.

Nian gāo in Chinese also means “a year higher,” bringing with it the wish of prosperity year on year.

Other desserts are tāngyuán (汤圆) or sweet rice balls and máqiú (麻球) or sesame seed balls. These desserts symbolize family unity or get-togetherness.

8. Celebrations around the world

The population of mainland China alone is around 1.4 billion. This number does not include those living in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as those in Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, and other cities around the world.

There are Chinese communities in just about every corner of the world, with major cities in the U.S., U.K., and Australia having a Chinatown district.

It’s said that one-sixth of the world celebrates Chinese New Year with pomp and pageantry like mainland China.

The overseas Chinese population is recorded at 50 million; no wonder the festive event is celebrated in every part of the world!

Xin nian kuai le!

(Editor’s note: This story was first published on February 7, 2019, and updated on January 15, 2024.)

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