It’s that time of year again…Chinese New Year! The longest and arguably most festive and important holiday in China follows the Lunar Calendar and marks the New Year as such. You’ll hear the phrases “Chinese New Year” and “Spring Festival” used interchangeably, but they mean the same thing.
This year, Chinese New Year will be celebrated on January 28th, and the ordained zodiac of the year is the Rooster. Each person has an animal, or zodiac, associated with them and each one represents a different personality type – all based upon the year you were born. Those born in 2017, taking on the Rooster as their metaphorical mascot, are predicted to grow up with a rather extravagant personality and not be afraid to be unique and stand out. They’ll also be caring, so regardless of the ego there will be selflessness intact. If you are interested, take a look at the zodiac personalities and see where you fall.
Many details are woven into the zodiac symbols, ranging from lucky numbers to elements of the earth, and even to lucky colors and flowers.
Red is one of the most prominent and lucky colors in China, therefore expect to see it draped in the form of banners, trinkets, dragons, and more during the Spring Festival. The most recognizable red item, the Red Packet, certainly deserves mention as people will be exchanging bright red envelopes filled with various amounts of money during the New Year festivities. It’s a custom that cannot be ignored! Children receive red packets until they are an adult and married…then once someone becomes a grandparent, they start receiving them again.
Be sure to give the right amount in the Red Packet, as unlucky numbers are as good as a slap in the face. Numbers such as “4” are terrible, as they have similar sound to the word “Death.” The number “6” in Chinese sounds similar to the phrase “well-off,” so quantities including sixes are acceptable. The emphasis on numbers is quite different from Western culture, so do some research and choose your amount wisely.
Expect to see Fireworks – which are said to scare off evil spirits—exploding in abundance during the New Year festivities and the thick, lingering clouds afterward. Cleanliness is also important during this time, with families taking extra care to thoroughly clean their houses and wear new attire. Always be sure to look your best when visiting someone’s home and be polite, receiving their kindness with a blessing return.
Families will travel far and wide to return home for the Chinese New Year – one of the only times many workers will be able to travel home to see their families the whole year. People will travel for hours and even days by train, plane, or taxi cab to get home for this special time. Their visit home culminates with the Reunion Dinner where generations within the family join together and enjoy “lucky” food such as fish, oranges, and long noodles.
With the clashing of symbols, the extravagant colors, and the hustle and bustle of travel to see loved ones, The Spring Festival maintains its foundation of being a staple Chinese holiday steeped in rich cultural traditions and rooted in the celebration of newness and family.