Chinese New Year may be February 1 this year, but the celebration lasts longer than one day. In fact, Spring Festival begins on February 1 and ends with the Lantern Festival on February 15.
In China, the public holiday for Lunar New Year is seven days, from Chinese New Year’s Eve on January 31 to the sixth day of the new lunar year. While banks, offices, and many shops will be closed for a week, schools, will be closed for four weeks, China Highlights explains. The public holiday in Hong Kong, Macao, and other Asian countries is typically recognized for between one and three days.
During this time, people will first gather with their extended families to celebrate and wish each other good fortune and blessings in the coming year. Then they will celebrate later with neighbors and friends as well.
There’s more to the holiday than eating the dumplings and exchanging the red envelopes some of us are familiar with. With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown on what you need to know about Chinese New Year and the Spring Festival.
The Spring Festival, which dates back thousands of years, is based on the Chinese lunar calendar. It begins with Chinese New Year — February 1 this year — and ends with the Lantern Festival on February 15 this year. During that span, there are several ceremonial days.
The holiday’s origins were a ceremonial time at the end of winter’s coldest days to pray to the gods for good planting and harvest seasons, but also to fight off monsters and usher in good luck, Chinese New Year explains.
January 24 To 31
Chinese New Year isn’t until February 1, but events begin on January 24 with Little Year. This is a time to prepare for the New Year by praying and cleaning the house to sweep away any bad luck that has accumulated over the past year, Chinese New Year explains.
New Year’s Eve
The evening typically begins with a reunion dinner, or feast, when the extended family gathers together again.
This is also when red envelopes are exchanged. The envelopes are red because the color is associated with luck and prosperity. The money inside is hoped to bring good fortune and blessings.
Adults give children red envelopes to pass on good fortune, but children also sometimes give red envelopes to their elders to show gratitude and extend wishes for longevity.
While they are waiting for the new year, people also often shoot off fireworks. These fireworks and firecrackers are intended to scare off monsters and bad luck.
The day often begins by setting off more fireworks and greeting neighbors. In addition to eating any food left over from last night’s feast, many people also drink some Tu Su wine. This wine, which is drunk to ensure a healthy year, is made by infusing wine with rhubarb and herbs, Food and Wine explains.
February 12 to 15
Preparations for the Lantern Festival will begin on February 12, while the actual festival is on February 15. Typical activities of the Lantern Festival include reuniting with family to look at the moon, light lanterns and more fireworks, and watch lion dances.
Some people also call this the “true” Chinese Valentine’s Day.
“Everyone — regardless of age or gender — goes out in the streets to celebrate,” Chinese New Year explains. “In ancient times, girls weren’t allowed to venture outside by themselves but on this night, they were able to walk around, moon-gaze, and look at the beautiful lanterns. Because of this, it’s also known as Valentine’s Day in China.”
Year Of The Tiger
The Chinese New Year is based on a lunar calendar and its zodiac. The Chinese zodiac is a repeating 12-year cycle of animal signs: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. The attributes of the animals are thought to be reflective of the year and people born during it.
2022 will be the Year of the Tiger.
“Tigers are courageous and active people who love a good challenge and adventure in life,” Chinese New Year notes. “Like their eponymous zodiac animal, people born in years of the Tiger are vigorous and ambitious, daring and courageous, enthusiastic and generous, self-confident with a sense of justice and a commitment to help others for the greater good.”
Are you a Tiger? Babies born this year are (or will be!) as are those who were born in 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, and 2010.
Cleaning — And Not Cleaning
As was noted, it’s vital to thoroughly clean the house before New Year’s Eve to sweep or wash away any bad luck that has accumulated over the past year.
Cleaning on New Year’s Day, however, is to be avoided at all costs. That even extends to not doing the dishes. That’s because people don’t want to remove any good luck that arrived at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
“Don’t wash or cut your hair on New Year’s Day because it is seen as washing your fortune away and dramatically reduces chances of prosperity in the year ahead,” Chinese New Year notes. “Actually, Lunar New Year fundamentalists will tell you taking a shower is also off-limits on the first day for the same reason.”
Dumplings figure prominently in all of the feasts. What’s more, they are widely considered the most important course of the traditional Chinese New Year Eve dinner.
“The reason Chinese people eat dumplings is because of their shape like the ancient silver and gold ingots which symbolize wealth,” Top China Travel explains. “People say that the more dumplings you eat during the New Year time, the more money you will make next year.”
While you’re thinking about China and its long history, be sure to read the rest of our China coverage, including:
Plus, if you’ll be in San Francisco for Chinese New Year, be sure to read: