Chinese New Year: What you need to know

  • 08 February 2016

Chinese New Year, or as it is known in China – Spring Festival, is a celebration steeped in ceremony and history. But what exactly is it?

Where does it come from?

It began during the Shang Dynasty, 17th – 11th century BC, as a festival to fight off the monster Nian, who ate children and livestock. Nian was afraid of the colour red and loud sound so people decorated their houses in red and set off firecrackers to expel it.

The festival then evolved into the Chinese New Year, but when China adopted the western calendar in 1912 it became the Spring Festival.

When is it?

This year the new year falls on February 8th 2016, beginning the year of the Monkey. The festival will run for 15 days, from January 31 until February 22.

Every one of the 15 days involves a different activity related to the Spring Festival. From worshipping different gods, to thorough house cleaning and clothing shopping, the activities all prepare people for the year ahead.

How is it celebrated?

Feasting

On New Year’s Eve families have a “reunion dinner” where people eat long noodles to symbolize long life and round dumplings shaped like the full moon are shared as a sign of the family unit and of perfection.

Gifting

Red envelopes with crisp notes are given to children to bless them for the coming year.

There are some gifts which are bad luck to receive, so be sure to be aware of them before giving a Chinese guest a New Year’s gift. For instance giving someone a sharp object will insinuate that you want to cut ties with that person, and giving a clock or watch to someone means that you think that they’re running out of time.

Fireworks

As with most New Year’s celebrations worldwide extravagant fireworks and crackers bring in the new year in China.