Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year (Chinese: 春節, 春节, Chūnjíe; 農曆新年, 农历新年, Nónglì Xīnnián; or 過年, 过年, Guònián), also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It consists of a period of celebrations, starting on New Year's Day, celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, i.e. the day of the second new moon after the day on which the winter solstice occurs, unless there is an intercalary eleventh or twelfth month in the lead-up to the New Year—in such a case, the New Year falls on the day of the third new moon after the solstice. (The next time this occurs is in 2033.) The Chinese New Year period ends with the Lantern Festival, the fifteenth day of the month.
Some Chinese believe that Nian ("Nyehn") was a reptilian predator that could infiltrate houses silently like the infamous man-eating leopards of India. The Chinese soon learned that Nian was sensitive to loud noises, and they scared it away with explosions and fireworks.
Celebrated internationally in areas with large populations of ethnic Chinese, Chinese New Year is considered to be a major holiday for the Chinese as well as ethnic groups such as the Mongolians, Koreans, the Miao (Chinese Hmong) and the Vietnamese, who were influenced by Chinese culture in terms of religious and philosophical worldview, language and culture in general. Chinese New Year is also the time when the largest human migration takes place when Chinese all around the world return home on Chinese New Year eve to have reunion dinner with their family.
* 1 Greetings
Around the New Year people greet each other with:
Traditional Chinese: 恭喜發財; Simplified Chinese: 恭喜发财; pinyin: Gōngxǐ fācái; Hokkien Keong hee huat chye (POJ: Kiong-hí hoat-châi); Cantonese: Kung hei fat choi; Hakka: Kung hee fat choi, which translates to "Congratulations and be prosperous."
Traditional Chinese: 新年快樂; Simplified Chinese: 新年快乐; pinyin: Xīnnián kuàilè; Hokkien POJ: Sin-nî khòai-lo̍k, which translates to "Happy new year."
Traditionally, red packets (Mandarin: 'hong bao' (紅包); Hokkien: 'ang pow' (POJ: âng-pau); Hakka: 'fung bao'; Cantonese: 'lai see' (利是)) are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebrations, from married couples to unmarried people (usually children). Chinese New Year is celebrated with firecrackers, dragon dances and lion dances. Typically the game of mahjong is played.
A reunion dinner is held on New Year's Eve where members of the family, near and far, get together for celebration. The New Year's Eve dinner is very large and traditionally includes chicken. Fish (魚, yú) is included, but not eaten up completely (and the remaining stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase 年年有魚/餘; (nián nián yǒu yú, or "every year there is fish/leftover") is a homophone for phrases which could mean "be blessed every year" or "have profit every year", since "yú" is also the pronunciation for "profit". A type of black hair-like algae, pronounced "fat choy" in Cantonese, is also featured in many dishes since its name sounds similar to "prosperity". Hakka will serve "kiu nyuk" 扣肉 and "ngiong tiu fu" 釀豆腐. Because the things sound alike, the belief is that having one will lead to the other, like the old child's aphorism "step on a crack, break your mother's back".
First day of the new year
New Year's day is also celebrated within the family. Usually family members gather on the morning of New Year's Day. It is at this gathering that red packets are given to unmarried members of the family. The age of the recipient is not material to receiving the packets. Married couples usually give out two red packets on the first new year after being married. This is because the wife presents one and the husband presents one. In subsequent years they may give one as a couple.
Red packets traditionally consisted of amounts which were considered multiples. Amounts like $2 (two piece of $1), or $20 were acceptable. Similarly "multiples" such as $1.10 and $2.20 were also acceptable. However, this is not strictly adhered to. The gift was originally a token amount but these days it is not uncommon to receive large sums in affluent families. In some families this tradition has evolved into the practice to substituting money-like instruments (stocks, bonds, unit trust) in place of large sums of cash.
Red packets are also given to unmarried visitors but the sums are often smaller than the packets given to family members or close friends.
Second day of the new year
The second day of the new year is usually for visiting the family of the wife if a couple is married. A large feast is also typically held on the second day of the new year.
Seventh day of the new year
The seventh day traditionally is known as the common man's birthday, the day when everyone grows one year older. It is also the day when tossed fish salad, yusheng, is eaten. People get together to toss the colourful salad and make wishes for continued wealth and prosperity. This is only celebrated amongst the Chinese in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Singapore.
There are many foods in Chinese culture associated with the Chinese New Year. Although preferences vary from region to region, some examples include the following:
* Niangao (粘糕) The Chinese word 粘, meaning "sticky", is identical in sound to 年, meaning "year", and the word 糕, meaning "cake" is identical in sound to 高, meaning "high". As such, eating niangao has the symbolism of raising oneself higher in each coming year (年年高升 niánnián gāoshēng). Chinese families who practice Chinese traditional religion also offer niangao to the kitchen god, Zao Jun. It is believed that all the household gods go off to heaven to report on a family during the new year. Serving niangao to the kitchen god is believed to help him provide a sweet report on the family because he will be satisfied and not inclined to deliver criticism — or that his lips are so sticky from the cakes that he is unable to make too much of a report.
* Fagao Literally translated as "Prosperity Cake", fagao is made with wheat flour, water, sugar and leavened with either yeast or baking powder. Fagao batter is steamed until it rises and splits open at the top. The sound "fa" means either "to raise/generate" or "be prosperous", hence its well intending secondary meaning.
* Jiaozi Dumplings, are small or large mounds of dough that are usually dropped into a liquid mixture (such as soup or stew) and cooked until done, some are stuffed with meat and/or vegetables.
* Yusheng, a salad of raw fish and shredded crunchy vegetables (such as carrots, jicama, pickled ginger and pomelo) in a plum sauce dressing. Although commonly served in China throughout the year, it was popularised as a Chinese New Year dish in Singapore and Malaysia, a practise which has since spread to other Chinese communities. Originally served only on the seventh day of the new year, it is now eaten on any day, sometimes as early as two weeks prior to the commencement of the new year.
* Mandarin oranges (a symbol of wealth and good fortune). The Cantonese word for these oranges is a homonym for gold.
* Red Jujubes symbolizes the gaining of prosperity
* Whole steamed fish (a symbol of long life and good fortune). This can be seen in wall decorations of fish themes. The word 鱼 (yú), meaning "fish", shares the same pronunciation with the word 余, meaning "surplus" (e.g. having money left over from covering expenses). The common greeting for the new year "niannian you yu" can mean to enjoy a surplus, i.e. financial security, year after year.
* Uncut noodles (a symbol of longevity)
* Baked goods with seeds (a symbol of fertility)
The New Year season lasts fifteen days. The first week is the most important and most often celebrated with visits to friends and family as well as greetings of good luck. The celebrations end on the important and colourful Lantern Festival on the evening of the 15th day of the month. However, Chinese believe that on the third day (年初三) of the Chinese New Year it is not appropriate to visit family and friends, and call the day "chec hao" (赤口), meaning "easy to get into arguments".
The date of the Chinese New Year is determined by the Chinese calendar, a lunisolar calendar. The same calendar is used in countries that have adopted the Confucian and Buddhism tradition and in many cultures influenced by the Chinese, notably the Koreans, the Tibetans, the Vietnamese and the pagan Bulgars. Chinese New Year starts on the first day of the new year containing a new moon (some sources even include New Year's Eve) and ends on the Lantern Festival fourteen days later. This occurs around the time of the full moon as each lunation is about 29.53 days in duration. In the Gregorian calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on different dates each year, on a date between January 21 and February 21.
New Year dates
For a more in-depth look at New Year dates, see Chinese Astrology.
The dates of the Spring Festival from 1996 to 2019 (in the Gregorian calendar) are listed below with pinyin romanizations for the earthly branches associated with the animals, which are not their translations.
Many non-Chinese think that they were born in a certain year, when they actually weren't. For example, the 1989 year of the snake began on 6 February 1989. The year 1990 (the year following 1989) is considered by some people to be the year of the horse. However, the 1989 year of the snake officially ended on 26 January 1990, because the zodiac does not end exactly on January 1. This means that anyone born from January 1 to 25 January 1990 was actually born in the year of the snake, not the year of the horse, although some people born during this period are not aware of this fact. This is the case for every year.
See Chinese astrology for a list of Chinese New Year dates for every year from 1900 to 2020, covering one full sexagesimal cycle (1924–1983) and portions of two others.