What is Chinese New Year?

Image Credit: Flickr User IQRemix, via CC

Image Credit: Flickr User IQRemix, via CC

The entire world celebrates the new year on January 1 except the Chinese. Why? Do they not believe in the new year and the new beginnings? No way. Everyone loves new year! It is just that the Chinese celebrate their new year at a different time. They bring in their new year somewhere between January 19 and February 20. Listen to Chinese new year cheer.

Why do Chinese celebrate the new year on a different day than the rest of the world?

Chinese follow a different Chinese calendar from the rest of the world which uses Gregorian Calendar. The Gregorian Calendar is based on the Earth’s revolution around the sun. Thus, this solar calendar has 365-day year that is divided into 12 months of irregular lengths. The Chinese calendar, on the other hand, follows a lunisolar calendar that moves on the cycle of the moon’s phases, and the progress of the sun. In the Chinese calendar, each month begins with the occurrence of a new moon. The Chinese year is not of 365 days. It has long months 30 days and small months of 29 days. The result is that there an extra month is inserted every few years to catch up with the Gregorian calendar.

This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.

How do the Chinese celebrate the new year?

Chinese new year, also known as the Spring Festival is celebrated for 15 days! It begins on new years eve. People wish each other “Kung Hei Fat Choy” that means May Prosperity Be With You. Red is the dominant color of the festivities. People put up red decorations inside and outside of the house. There is an interesting legend behind this.

Ancient Chinese believed there once lived a ferocious beast – Nian, who appeared in villages on every New Year’s day to eat children. One new year, Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. Nian was afraid of the color red. From then, every time on New Year, the villagers hung red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors and burst firecrackers to frighten Nian. Nian never turned to look at the village again. Here is an interesting animation of the legend.

During two-week long festivities, Chinese families thoroughly clean their house, to keep away ill-fortune and bring in good luck. They get together to have family reunions. A popular custom is when elders give money to younger people in the family in traditional red paper envelopes known as hongbao.

The new year festivities end with a with a lantern festival where people float beautiful lanterns in the air. The lanterns are often red and carry messages and wishes. They look like millions of fireflies floating in the sky!

Why do Chinese relate each year with an animal?

The Chinese believe very strongly in the Chinese animal zodiac or Sheng Xiao. According to it each year belongs to an animal and is dominated by its good qualities. There are 12 animals, and the cycle repeats after every 12 years.

The year 2015 is the year of the goat. Can you find out animal of the year that you were born in?