Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, is China’s most outstanding festival. This year the festival falls on Saturday January 25. It is the Year of the Rat according to the Chinese Zodiac. The zodiac features a 12-year cycle with each year represented by a specific animal.

Zodiac animals include Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. The animal sign is believed to dominate the year and influence the character and destiny of people born in the year. Every Chinese knows his or her own animal sign.  

Interpretations of the Chinese Zodiac (Credit: Facebook @lunaryear2020)

The 7-day public holiday will begin on January 24 through 30 with events happening in China and across the globe. The dominance of beautiful red lanterns, loud fireworks, luscious banquets and parades triggers exciting feelings during this season.

Chinese New Year Customs

Like Christmas in Western countries, Chinese New Year is a time to be home with family, chatting, drinking, cooking, and enjoying a hearty meal together. The busiest time for transportation is 3 to 5 days before Spring Festival and 3 to 5 days after Spring Festival. This is because people need to travel to their home towns, and after the festivities, return to the cities. To learn about the best places to visit during Chinese New Year and travel tips visit travelchinaguide.com or chinahighlights.com.

Housekeeping: Families team up to do house cleaning; moping sweeping, wiping, and washing. It is to make sure the house is rid of the old year’s dust and is prepared to welcome the blessings of the New Year. Then every house is decorated with red lanterns, Chinese knots, Spring Festival couplets, ‘Fu’ character pictures, and red window paper-cuts.

Red Envelop Gifting: Seniors give luck money to kids; wrapped in red packets in the hope of dispelling evil spirits from the them. Most of the money is used to buy the kids toys, snacks, clothes, stationery, or saved for their education. People also exchange New Year greetings through instant messages on WeChat, the most popular app in China.

Fireworks time: Loud bangs of fireworks, from 0:00 to 0:30 signals the welcoming of the New Year. By age-long tradition, the Chinese use fireworks to scare away the legendary monster ‘Nian,’ which appears at midnight. However, some urban areas recently kick against the use of fireworks because of its effect on air quality.

Family visits: While public celebrations are going on, family visits are also important during the festivities. It’s a perfect period for family reunion. People start visiting relatives from the second day of the New Year. Extended families bring gifts to one another’s homes and give red envelopes to the kids.

Folk shows and temple fairs: For those in urban areas, the main fun happens at temple fairs with religious worship, costume performances, games, and local snacks. Some locations have lantern fairs, offering great night fun. It is more traditional in the rural areas where you will find folk shows, including the yangko dance. Other performances will include stilt walking in north China and dragon and lion dances common in southern regions.

New Year Menu of Luck

Chinese are known to be lovers and creators of some of the best cuisines in the world. They are very passionate about traditional and modern cooking. So, in marking the New Year, Chinese prepare special delicacies that carry meanings and good luck.

Dumplings (Photo: Chinesenewyear.net)
Fish (Photo: Chinahighlights.com)
Glutinous Rice Balls (Photo: Kcet.org)
Spring Rolls (Photo: Chinahighlights.com)

For instance, dumplings symbolise fortune with its shape like an ancient Chinese gold ingot. Fish represents surplus in the year ending and good luck for the coming year. Glutinous rice balls with round shape stand for completeness and family reunion. Spring rolls with the appearance like a gold bar and stuffed with fresh vegetables symbolise a fresh start.

New Year’s Gala on CCTV

Lovers of Chinese culture can watch the New Year’s Gala on CCTV. It is described as one of China’s most watched special events. CCTV’s signal can be received across the globe, in some places through satellite transmission. The 4.5-hour live broadcast will feature music, dance, comedy, opera, and acrobatic performances.

Sources: travelchinaguide.com, chinahighlights.com, chinesenewyear.net, knowfengshui.com, and @lunaryear2020

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