Chinese New Year (Spring Festival 春节) is a major holiday in not just China but also in other countries in Asia. Here are some interesting facts about Chinese New Year.
1. The Chinese New Year date changes each year.
The date for Chinese New Year changes each year. It always falls between January 21 and February 20 and is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar. Chinese New Year 2020 is on Saturday, January 25.
2. The holiday is also called "Spring Festival" 春节.
Though in winter, Chinese call their New Year holidays 'Spring Festival' 春节, because 'Start of Spring' (4–18 February) is the first of the terms in the traditional solar calendar.
While wintry weather prevails, 'Start of Spring' marks the end of the coldest part of winter when the Chinese traditionally could look forward to the beginning of spring.
3. Every Chinese New Year starts a new animal's zodiac year.
There are 12 Chinese zodiac animals. In order, the 12 animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. 2020 is a year of the Rat.
4. The festival is celebrated for 16 days till the Lantern Festival.
Traditionally, the 16 days from Chinese New Year's Eve until the Lantern Festival each had a special celebration activity.
On the evening of the 15th day of the first lunar month (February 8, 2020), on the night of the full moon, families gather for dinner and go out and see fireworks and light lanterns. Lanterns are put up for decoration, let loose to fly, and floated in rivers.
5. Traditionally, this period was for praying to harvest gods.
As China was a largely agrarian society, Chinese New Year was traditionally a time when people prayed to the harvest gods to ensure that their next year's harvest would be fruitful.
Today, this has changed but praying still plays a role as remembering your ancestors as a family is one of the more important activities during Chinese New Year.
6. Billions of red envelopes are exchanged.
Chinese people love the color red. Giving red envelopes is a way to send good wishes and luck (as well as money).
Red envelopes are given out from older to younger, from bosses to employees, and from leaders to underlings. It is a special New Year's bonus.
7. And today many of these red envelopes are given electronically!
It is extremely popular to send family and friends red envelopes electronically, something that can be done through WeChat, China's most popular communications app
In the days leading up to Chinese New Year, colleagues will often send each other red envelopes that be small in value but are an important token of appreciation. For someone with a lot of friends and family, the flurry of electronic red envelopes can be hard to keep up with!
8. Red decorations are everywhere during the Chinese New Year.
You might know that red is a lucky color in China, representing many positive things such as happiness, beauty, vitality, good luck, success, and good fortune, but did you know that almost everything is red during Chinese New Year?
Apart from the red envelopes, decorations and spring couplets hung up outside people's homes are red. You'll also see lanterns everywhere, as well as red paper cuttings.
Paper cuttings will often be representations of the animal of that year, so the rat for 2020, the Year of the Rat.
9. It is a festival for 1/4 of the world's population.
The world’s population will be 7.7 billion for Spring Festival 2020, and over 2 billion celebrate it in some way, even if it’s just a national acknowledgment.
These countries have public holidays during Chinese New Year: Mainland China (1.41 billion), Hong Kong (7M), and Macau (0.6M), and nine other Asian countries — Indonesia (264M), The Philippines (105M), Vietnam (95M), South Korea (51M), Malaysia (31M), North Korea (25M), Taiwan (23M), Singapore (5M), and Brunei (0.4M).
That is already 2017 million, so with the sizable Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. populations who celebrate in cities like New York, London, Vancouver, and Sydney, there will be over 2020 million people who acknowledge the festival in 2020.
10. The festival causes the world’s largest annual migration.
For Chinese people, the most important part of the Chinese Spring Festival is to enjoy a reunion dinner with their families on New Year's Eve, even if they have to travel long distances.
200 million Mainland Chinese travel long distances for these holidays, and it is estimated that there are 3.5 billion journeys in China. Tens of millions of people travel in other countries too. This makes CNY the largest annual human migration in the world, known as the Spring Festival Travel Rush.
For comparison, less than 100 million people travel more than 50 miles during the Christmas holidays in the US according to the American Automobile Association.
11. And the New Year's Eve Gala is the world's most watched TV show.
On Chinese New Year's Eve, most of China tunes in to watch the New Year's Eve Gala on the national television.
This TV show involves many Chinese celebrities performing songs and dances and is watched as a family together, in a similar way that families might watch the ball dropping on New York's Times Square in the USA.
Watching it is a great way to get an introduction to many types of Chinese performance arts.
12. Washing, sweeping, or taking out the garbage are not allowed.
During the Chinese New Year period, there are many superstitions.
Washing hair or clothes is not allowed on the first day of the lunar year because it is seen as “washing one’s fortune away” at the beginning of the year. Sweeping up and taking out the garbage symbolize removing the good luck from the house, so people don’t do that either.
13. Giving people pears or mirrors as gifts is also taboo.
There are also many superstitions surrounding gifts that you can and can't give during the Chinese New Year period.
Pears, for example, are taboo because the Chinese word for 'pears' (梨 lí /lee/) sounds the same as the word for leaving or 'parting' (离 lí).
Mirrors are a terrible gifting idea throughout much of Asia, not just China, as they are believed to attract malicious ghosts. They are also easily broken, and anything that breaks is considered a bad omen.
14. You can, however, give alcohol, tea, or toys.
Of course, there are plenty of gifts that are great to give at Chinese New Year, depending on who you are giving to.
Friends love receiving things such as tea, tea sets, alcohol, or tobacco, and seniors love receiving scarves, clothing, gloves, and hats (as long as the hat isn't green, because the Chinese for green hat is also a way of saying somebody is jealous!).
For kids, apart from the obvious red envelopes, think along the lines of books, toys, or school supplies for Chinese New Year's gifts that are bound to be well-received!
15. There is the world's biggest annual fireworks usage during Chinese New Year.
Another for our facts about Chinese New Year, no single hour in any other country sees as many tons of fireworks lighted as in China around the midnight beginning Chinese New Year. China produces about 90% of the world's fireworks!
Fireworks are used to scare evil spirits: Most mainland Chinese believe that the flash and bang of firecrackers and fireworks scare away demons and evil ghosts.
16. It is now illegal to set off your own fireworks in most cities.
As a result of pollution and safety issues, many of China's big cities have banned people from setting off their own fireworks within the city or within certain parameters of the city. The governments are trying to encourage people to attend official fireworks displays instead.
Smaller cities also recently have had some forms of restrictions being put on their fireworks.
However, many people do not follow these rules and you will see (but mostly hear) fireworks and firecrackers being set off by everybody starting on Chinese New Year's Eve.
In some cities, there is no rest from the constant noise for the entire week, if not longer.
17. But before firecrackers were invented, Chinese people would burn bamboo.
Originally, burning bamboo's crackling was believed to send away evil demons, so people would burn this on the Chinese New Year's Eve.
With the invention of fireworks and firecrackers, however, these replaced the tradition of burning bamboo because firecrackers are much louder!
18. On Chinese New Year's Eve, people eat auspicious foods.
Certain foods are eaten during the Chinese New Year period purely for their symbolic meaning.
This includes dumplings, eaten because they represent wealth. The more dumplings you can eat, the more money you will make in the new year.
Fish is eaten because the word for fish in Chinese, (鱼 Yú /yoo/) sounds like 'surplus'.
19. Oranges and tangerines play a large role in Chinese New Year festivities.
Oranges and tangerines are displayed because they are believe to bring good luck and fortune due to their pronunciation and characters.
The Chinese for orange (and tangerine) is 橙 (chéng /chnng/), which sounds the same as the Chinese for 'success' (成). One of the ways of writing tangerine (桔 jú /jyoo/) contains the Chinese character for luck (吉 jí /jee/).
This explains why oranges and tangerines are seen everywhere during this period, and also why they make great gifts!
20. Kids love the holiday.
Kids love the holiday, because they get a month off of school, new clothes to wear, and receive red envelopes.
It is believed that wearing new clothes can bring fortune and health, so parents will buy new clothes for their kids, which they wear for the reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve.
Red envelopes within lucky money are traditional gifts for children during the Chinese New Year period. Children receive red envelopes from parents, older relatives, and visitors. Every kid has a chance to "get rich". Some kids receive over 10,000 yuan (almost 1,500 USD!).
21. But it can be tough for some: "old" singles hire fake boy/girlfriends to take home.
This is a fresh-new fact about Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is a joyful time for most, but for singles above the normal matrimonial age, it's not. In China, females are said to be marriageable up to 30, and males before 32.
For “old” singles, parents are extremely anxious. So New Year's Eve stress is heightened by embarrassing interrogations of the singles. Desperate parents even arrange dating (prospective marriages) for their single children.
To solve this problem an interesting, and often ridiculous, solution has appeared — renting a boyfriend or girlfriend for the New Year. There are websites and agents specialized in this business. The price is about 100 yuan (16 USD) a day.
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