A Simple Guide to Chinese New Year

History of the Chinese New Year 

This year Chinese New Year is on the 1st of February, with 2022 being the Year of the Tiger. Those born under this sign are supposedly courageous and active people who seek adventure and a challenge. Also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is the most important among the traditional Chinese festivals and its origins can be traced back to around 3,500 years ago.

Historians believe that the festival was originally celebrated during the Shang Dynasty, when it is thought that people would hold sacrificial ceremonies in honour of the gods and their ancestors. The date of the festival, which is the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, was fixed in the Han Dynasty. 

The Republic of China now follows the Gregorian calendar but the lunar calendar is still used, popularly, for festivals. This lunar calendar has a repeating twelve-year cycle that assigns an animal and its attributes to each year in the cycle. It is often known as the Chinese zodiac although it differs from the western zodiac which is associated with constellations rather than to years. 

3 Ways People Celebrate Chinese New Year 

Cleaning and decorating your house:  

It’s common for Chinese New Year celebrations to involve cleaning your house, ready for the spring, representing ‘dusting away’ the bad fortune you may have endured in the last year and leaving room for good fortune to enter your house. 

People also decorate their house with red, the main colour of the celebration, believed to be a sign of future success. Red lanterns, red couplets as well as red paintings can be seen on houses, the streets and official buildings across China. 

Enjoying a Family reunion on New Year’s Eve: 

The Chinese New Year’s meal is called the “reunion meal” and is considered by some to be the most important meal of the year, with family members from several generations eating together.  As in the West, families in China will stay up late to celebrate the New Year as it happens, in the streets or by watching the Spring Gala, a very popular TV show in China.  

Gift Giving: 

Like Christmas, it’s very common to give and receive gifts for Chinese New Year. The most common of these being the red envelopes given to children or to retired seniors which represent good luck (and money) for the following year. 

Other gifts are also given, the most common ones being items such as alcohol, candy/sweets, tea, fruits and other foods. If you are planning to give someone a gift, however, don’t give black or white presents as these are associated with funerals and can represent bad luck.  

There are Chinese New Year celebrations throughout the UK in 2022, so there should be one fairly near to you.

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