What you need to know about Chinese New Year

  • 19 February 2015 | Kolosa Vuso

Today, Thursday, 19 February, ushers in the Chinese Year of the Sheep (also known as the Year of the Goat or Year of the Ram).

Here’s what you need to know about Chinese New Year: 

  • The Goat comes eighth in the Chinese zodiac. The 12 zodiac animals are: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig
  • Is it the Year of the Sheep, Goat or Ram? Chinese people are divided in this regard. In Chinese the word 羊 (yáng) is a generic term that can refer to sheep (绵羊), goat (山羊), ram/buck (a male sheep or goat) (公羊), or several other examples 
  • If you want to wish your Chinese guests a happy new year, the correct phasing is 'Gung hei fat choi', and it translates to 'May you have good fortune'
  • For farmers in China, the start of their New Year marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring
  • A new year’s celebration is incomplete without firecrackers. Not only do the crackers make it more festive, but the Chinese also believe setting off firecrackers chases away evil spirits
  • The Chinese New Year celebrations last for 15 days and, from the first day to the fifth, most homeowners will not sweep or clean their houses as they believe this will sweep away their good fortune
  • Red is a colour you will repeatedly see during the celebrations. This is because red is a symbol of fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. During these festivities people wear red clothes, decorate their homes with poems on red paper, and give children “lucky money” in red envelopes
  • On Chinese New Year, everyone turns a year older, regardless of when he or she was actually born