10 interesting facts about the Chinese New Year
Do you know the fact that nearly a quarter of the world’s population observes and celebrates the Chinese New Year? Okay, what else do you know about it?
So, as you prepare to learn more about the Chinese New Year (also called Spring Festival or Lunar New Year), here are some cool, interesting facts to get you started.
Table of content
- Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year
- Each Chinese year has a different zodiac animal
- Chinese New Year causes the largest annual migration in the world
- It’s the world’s most explosive holiday with over a billion fireworks
- It’s the longest of all Chinese holidays
- The most common Chinese New Year greeting is “Xin Nian kuai le”
- Everyone gets a birthday on day 7
- The red color is central to Chinese New Year Celebrations
- The Reunion Dinner is the most loving aspect of the Spring Festival
- The “Lantern Festival” marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations
1.Chinese New Year has a different date each year
One of the first things many people don’t know is that the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival has no set date. Rather, it falls on a separate day every year.
Today, when we look at modern societies, they follow the Gregorian Calendar in which time is measured by the solar dating system. However, this hasn’t been the case since ancient times. At first, people actually began to measure the years and months based on different phases of the moon. This is how the lunar calendar came into being.
In the lunar year, we look at the moon cycles and it takes approximately 29.5 days for one moon cycle or “lunation” to complete. Due to this length of the moon cycle, each lunar month varies between 29 and 30 days.
Since the Chinese New year also follows the lunar calendar, you can understand why it does not fall on the same day every year. However, it often occurs between January 21 and February 20 of each year. This year, it’s going to fall on January 22.
2.Each Chinese year has a different zodiac animal
Each “lunar cycle” in China has 60 years and they use a small cycle of 12 years to record the calendar. Also, the Chinese symbolize each 12-year cycle with an animal.
These animals in the Chinese zodiac are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. All of these zodiac animals carry lucky meanings for people. It’s a common belief that if you’re born in a certain year, you’ll have some traits of that year’s animal in your personality.
2023 will be the year of the Rabbit. According to Chinese culture, anyone born in the year of Rabbit is usually quick-minded, vigilant, and ingenious.
It’s also in their culture that the year in which someone was born doesn’t just reveal personality traits. But it can also determine various other factors in their life, such as the lucky number and flower. It can even affect the way someone should arrange and decorate their space or house to bring off harmony and balance.
3.Chinese New Year causes the largest annual migration in the world
It’s a tradition in China that people spend their New Year or Spring Festival with their families. This means everyone will generally go back to their loved ones and families for a family reunion.
Since the majority of working-class youngmen reside in urban areas, their elderly parents are located in villages and rural communities. This causes an epic migration of people every year during the Spring Festival.
In China, this epic phenomenon of people traveling to their hometowns via trains, buses, planes, and cars is called Chunyun. Since more than a billion people are traveling during this holiday season. It’s definitely the largest annual human migration happening each year on the face of planet Earth.
Public transportation in China runs at its maximum capacity even when there is no holiday season. If you’ve ever been there, you will know that subways are extremely jam-packed on normal days. It gives you an idea of what would be the condition during Chunyun when everyone is hurrying home to meet their families. In fact, the statistics show that in 2019, the Chinese authorities handled around 3 billion trips.
4.It’s the world’s most explosive holiday with over a billion fireworks
It’s an ancient myth that setting off fireworks scares off monsters, evil spirits, and also bad luck. So, when the clock strikes 12:00 am on Chinese New Year’s eve, all families usually set off firecrackers. There will also be lots of firecrackers in the morning – this is to say welcome to the new year as well as good luck.
The entire sky lights up with more than one billion firecrackers, also called Baozhu in China. This makes Chinese New Year the most explosive of the world’s holidays. As you won’t be able to see this many fireworks going off anyplace else at any time of the year.
However, many Chinese cities have put a ban on these fireworks due to safety and air pollution concerns. And 500+ cities are those where they have restrictions around such activities. However, the public still doesn’t care and does it anyway.
Beijing is one of the famous cities where firecrackers remained illegal for 13 years. But in 2006, they had to lift the band in order to please the angry citizens.
5.It’s the longest of all Chinese holidays
Lasting for 16 days, the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the longest national holiday. Though technically it’s 15 days, the celebrations start as soon as New Year’s Eve, thus making the holiday 16 days.
Since it’s a national holiday, businesses and stores are often closed during the entire break. So, people will be buying New Year’s products at least a month before. These New Year products are called “nian huo” (年货) in Chinese. Following are the items that people usually stock during the period: gifts, snacks, cooking supplies, new garments, and more.
6.The most common Chinese New Year greeting is “xin nian kuai le”
There are a plethora of ways to wish someone a happy new year in Chinese but the most common of them all is “xīn nián kuài lè”.
Let’s break this phrase down for you. The literal meaning of “kuài lè” is ‘happy’ and “xīn nián” means ‘new year’.
However, if you’re in Hong Kong, you may hear the new year greetings as “gong hei fat choy”. Apart from Hong Kong, you’ll also hear the same phrase in other Cantonese-speaking places, such as when you’re in Macau city.
“Guo Nian Hao” is another good way to wish a happy new year in Chinese.
7.Everyone gets a birthday on day 7
Yes, everyone has a birthday on day seven of the Chinese New Year.
According to Chinese belief, the goddess Nuwa created all humans with yellow clay on the seventh day of the Chinese calendar. That’s why this day is everyone’s birthday in their tradition.
In Mandarin, people refer to this day as Renri, the literal meaning of which is Human Day. In Cantonese, they call it “yan yat”.
8.The Reunion Dinner is the most loving aspect of the Spring Festival
The reunion dinner is the most important and loving tradition of the Spring Festival.
It’s the annual get-together meal that takes place the night before the Chinese New Year. Family members from multiple generations gather together to reaffirm their affection and respect for each other.
The meal often includes 8 different dishes. It’s because the number eight represents prosperity in China.
9.The red color is central to Chinese New Year Celebrations
Red is the main color of the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year. During this holiday, you will find that almost everything has come under the shade of red.
As per Chinese traditions, red is an auspicious color that symbolizes happiness, luck, joy, vitality, and fertility. Since everyone wants to enter or start the new year with good fortune, it’s logical why they give so much significance to the red color.
People will decorate their houses with red spring couplets and red lanterns. The walls will have a covering of red cutout papers.
Men and women will put on new clothes which also have a splash of red.
After the reunion dinner, the parents will give their children red envelopes that include lucky money. It’s a way of passing on the good fortune from parents and grandparents to their children.
All in all, the red color is sure to fall through wherever you go. And it will look like the entire country has gone on red alert during this holiday.
10.The “Lantern Festival” marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations
The Chinese new year celebrations start with the new moon and end on the full moon of the first lunar month. So, families gather on the night of the full moon, the 15th day, and end the celebrations with the Lantern Festival.
The Lantern Festival is a festive occasion and people celebrate it with tasty tangyuan (sweet rice balls) and colorful lanterns.
People generally use lanterns to decorate their streets, release them into the sky, and float them in the rivers. The festival is all about promoting forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.