What is The Chinese New Year?

This important date on the Chinese calendar has been celebrated for many centuries. During the festivities ancestors are honoured and traditional ceremonies are held where people get together and welcome the New Year with customs that shall bring good luck, good fortune, wealth, prosperity and happiness.

The spring festival festivities for the New Year take 15 days in most countries. The New Year is often celebrated with dragon dances, lion dances, gift exchanging and fireworks. It ends typically with lantern festivals on the 15th day of the first calendar month. See below an image from the Pingxi Sky Festival which is celebrated in Taiwan every year to end the New Year’s festivities.

The Chinese calender

The Chinese zodiac calendar has a cycle of 12 years. The calendar was started on astronomical observations of the moon’s phases.

Each year a Chinese zodiac animal is the symbol for the year.

The 12 Chinese zodiac animals are: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

Look again at the listing of animals! They always come in the same order, so 2018 was the year of the dog, 2019 was the year of the pig and 2020 was the year of the rat. This year, it’s the Year of the Ox. Did you know that Miss B is an Ox? 

Chinese New Year food

People eat ‘auspicious food’ during the New Year period. For many, this means fish dishes. A fish is a symbol of good luck, wealth and healthy life.

Dumplings are traditionally eaten during the festivities. These little round rice flour balls are often filled with vegetables. Mandarin oranges, dried fruit and even sweets are seen as lucky food. Candy boxes and little round shaped biscuits symbolising gold or fortune are served everywhere.

A popular food are long noodles that symbolise good fortune as well as a long life.

A typical new year’s dish is Yusheng. This raw fish salad with rice or long noodles is eaten during the festive period. The dish is a symbol for wealth and longevity. The fish salad is usually served in a huge dish in the middle of a table, where family members and friends toss the noodles in the big bowl together and then eat.

Nursery and Reception had a go at following a simple Chinese recipe to make their own noodles. They learnt how to use special Chinese knives to chop up the vegetables and cook them over a low heat. It was a challenge trying to use chopsticks to eat the noodles!

Lunar new Year Traditions

Dragon dances and lion dance festivals will usher in the New Year in many cities. Some families may even invite a dance troupe into their homes as well.

Firecrackers are lit as these shall bring good luck and fortune. However, due to security reasons, firecrackers are banned in many areas nowadays and official fireworks displays are held instead.

On the second day of the New Year, families will visit each other and hand over little gifts. And sometimes even the family dog gets a gift too!

Gifts are handed money or little tokens in ‘red packets’ or little red envelopes as these symbolise prosperity and happiness.

Children sometimes get oranges, sweets or coins. The grownups ensure that they get an even number of gifts. The number 8 is also considered an especially lucky or auspicious number.

The bright colours, especially red, are seen as a lucky symbol. Red decorations, lanterns and colourful symbols can be seen everywhere. These shall attract luck and prosperity for the year to come.

Many people dress mainly in red coloured clothing for the festivities. Often people also buy new clothes to show that a fresh beginning is celebrated with the New Year.

We had lots of fun learning all about this festival. Have a look below at all the wonderful activities that we have been busy doing this week.