10 Things to Know about Chinese New Year

By Juliane Girl / February 1, 2019

On Friday the 1st of February Dublin holds its 12th Chinese New Year Festival welcoming the year of the pig. The two weeks festival celebrates Chinese culture and its rich traditions. So, for you to be well prepared, Babylon Radio has put together a list of 10 facts you need to know about the Chinese New Year.

1. One zodiac sign per year


Let’s start with the zodiac circle. In Western tradition, each month has its own zodiac sign ranging from animals and items to mythological creatures. China, however, assigns 1 of 12 animals, with certain characteristics, to each year. 2019 will be the year of the pig completing another 12-year circle. Other zodiac signs are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, and the Dog

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2. Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival


In China people also refer to the New Year Festival as the Spring Festival. This has to do with the fact that the time around the New Year is considered to be the coldest. Thus, by celebrating they welcome a new beginning and by that spring.

Chinese Spring Festival


3. No showering, sweeping or throwing out the garbage


Taking a shower on New Year’s Day is not allowed. Also, prior to the 5th you must not sweep the floor or take out the garbage. Doing so would mean washing away the good luck In Chinese tradition. Also, arguing, swearing or breaking things should be avoided.

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4. Traditional dumpling meal


In Chinese tradition, especially northern parts, the self-made dumplings are an integral part of the New Year’s dinner. They are generally considered “lucky food” that should be consumed during New Year’s as a good omen promising wealth for the coming year.

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5. Red-colored Decorations


Red is the most important color for the Chinese New Year. The whole house is decorated in several red items, paper-cuts or lanterns. This is rooted in Chinese mythology. Tales have it that the vicious monster Nian had terrorized villages for ages until the inhabitants found out that it is afraid of the color red. So, by decorating the house in this color, the monster is chased away.

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6. Children get a red envelope


In Chinese tradition, children receive a red envelope filled with money for Chinese New Year. The older family members give them to the young ones symbolically transferring good fortune and blessings over to them. Mythologically the tradition is also related to the monster Nian who would attack villagers. For protection parents gave the red envelopes to their children so that they may bribe the beast.

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7. Chinese New Year doesn’t have a set date


The Chinese New Year is calculated according to the lunar calendar not the solar, Gregorian, like in the West. This means there is no set date for the New Year’s Eve. Depending on the moon, the 30th of December in the lunar calendar equals the 4th of February in the Gregorian which makes it the New Year’s Eve. Spring Festival then starts on the 5th of February.

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8. New Year’s is also a birthday  


In Chinese culture, people have a “real” age and a “fake” one. The first one is the person’s actual birthday, meaning the day, month, and year somebody is born in. in addition to that, everybody grows one year older at the New Year’s Eve which is called “nominal age”.

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9. Fireworks are used to scare monsters


Much like the color red, firecrackers are used to scare away evil spirits and bad luck. In the stories, when the monster Nian would terrorize the village on New Year’s Eve people would make as much noise as possible to chase it away. To this day, fireworks are one of the most important parts of the New Years celebration and are set off in large amounts.

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10. The Lantern Festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year


The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the first full moon of the year in the lunar calendar and marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities. 2019 this will be the 19th of February. Like the Chinese New Year itself, the Lantern festival has many traditions. One of which includes solving little games and riddles written on the lanterns. Other popular activities are gazing at the moon, lion dances, and the lighting of the lanterns itself.

chinese new year lantern festival lion dance

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About the author

Juliane Girl

Hey, It's Juliane. I'm from the north of Germany where I study culture, language, and media. At the moment I'm working as an editor with Babylon Radio.

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