Chinese New Year is probably the most important date in the Chinese calendar, with the event being celebrated throughout China and in Chinese communities around the world. Gold plays an essential part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Also known as Lunar New Year, the date on which Chinese New Year falls each year is variable since it follows the Lunisolar calendar, hence the New Year festival is a movable event. However, Chinese New Year usually falls somewhere between 21 January and 21 February and the date is calculated based on the occurrence of a new moon.
This year, Chinese New Year is on Friday 16 February and marks the beginning of ‘Year of the Dog’ and the completion of the preceding ‘Year of the Rooster’. The Chinese calendar follows a 12-year repeating cycle and is also associated with 12 animals of the Zodiac (Sheng Xiao), with each year in the cycle represented by a different animal. The Year of the Dog is the 11th year in the Zodiac cycle. Next year in 2019, Chinese New Year falls on 5 February, and marks the beginning of the ‘Year of the Pig’, the final year of the cycle.
People born in the upcoming Year of the Dog are said to be loyal, honest and friendly with a sense of responsibility as well as being intelligent, independent and decisive. And across China, dogs are also considered auspicious and associated with good fortune.
New Year’s Day in China also marks the beginning of the Spring Festival. During Spring Festival, there is a 7 day public holiday across mainland China, beginning on Lunar New Year’s Eve and ending on the 6th day of the new lunar year. This year, the New Year public holiday starts on 15 February and lasts until 21 February. The actual Spring Festival then continues and runs up to the 15th day of the new lunar month which coincides with the traditional Lantern Festival. This year the Lantern Festival is on Friday 2 March.
Customs and Traditions across the Spring Festival
Chinese New Year celebrations are predominantly associated with the colour red. Red is traditionally thought to bring good luck and good future while scaring away evil and bad fortune. This tradition is associated with the story of a mythological beast Nian which in Chinese folklore was scared off by the use of red items and loud noises. Hence New Year’s celebrations incorporate red bunting, red hanging lanterns, dragon dances and loud displays of fire crackers, and its also common in China to see red cloths hanging at the entrances to houses during New Year’s festivities. Wearing red clothes is also popular over the festival and is thought to bring good luck.
In China, the New Year festivities incorporate various customs and traditions symbolising the renewal of a new year, the passing of an old year, and the cultivation of good luck. In the week before New Year, people traditionally clean their houses as a way of cleaning out the old. New Year is also a popular time to purchase new items as it signifies a new beginning and the welcoming of a new year.
The gifting of money-filled red envelopes is also popular during New Year across China. These gifts are thought to bring good luck to the recipient, hence they are known as lucky red envelopes. An amount containing the number 8 is particularly auspicious as the number 8 is thought to be lucky and bring prosperity. But apart from the money, the red colour of the envelope is also associated with good fortune.
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