Chinese New Year – China’s Grandest Festival & Longest Public Holiday
Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, is the grandest festival in China, with a 7-day long holiday. As the most colorful annual event, the traditional CNY celebration lasts longer, up to two weeks, and the climax arrives around the Lunar New Year’s Eve.
China during this period is dominated by iconic red lanterns, loud fireworks, massive banquets, and parades, and the festival even triggers exuberant celebrations across the globe.
Chinese New Year 2020 – The Year of the Rat
In 2020 Chinese New Year festival falls on Jan. 25. It is the Year of the Rat according to the Chinese zodiac, which features a 12-year cycle with each year represented by a specific animal.
People born in the Years of the Rat including 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, and 2008 will experience their Zodiac Year of Birth (Ben Ming Nian).
Chinese New Year Time for Family Reunion
Like Christmas in Western countries, Chinese New Year is a time to be home with family, chatting, drinking, cooking, and enjoying a hearty meal together.
When is Chinese New Year?
Unlike the universal New Year observed on January 1st, Chinese New Year is never on a fixed date. The dates vary according to the Chinese lunar calendar but generally fall on a day between January 21st and February 20th in the Gregorian calendar.
House Cleaning and Decorating – the half month before
No matter whether in a city apartment or a countryside villa, there must be a diligent housewife exerting all her energies to carry out a thorough clean of the house before the Chinese New Year.
Sweeping, mopping, wiping, washing… Sometimes the whole family needs to give a hand with the chores, to make sure the house is rid of the old year’s dust and is prepared for taking in the fortune of the New Year.
Then every house is decorated with the most favored color, the bright Red – red lanterns, Chinese knots, Spring Festival couplets, ‘Fu’ character pictures, and red window paper-cuts.
Family Reunion Dinner – New Year’s Eve
Home is the principal focus of the Spring Festival. All Chinese people manage to make their way home at the latest by New Year’s Eve, for a reunion dinner with the whole family.
The essential course on all Chinese menus for a reunion dinner will be steamed or braised whole fish, representing a surplus every year.
Various kinds of meat, vegetable, and seafood are made into dishes with auspicious meanings. Dumplings are indispensable for northerners, while rice cakes for southerners. The night is spent enjoying this feast along with cheerful family talk and laughter.
Giving Red Envelopes – Best Wishes through Money
From newborn babies to teenagers, lucky money will be given by seniors, wrapped in red packets in the hope of dispelling evil spirits from the kids. CNY 100 to 500 notes are commonly sealed in a red envelope, while there are big ones with up to CNY 5,000, especially in the rich southeast regions.
Besides a small disposable amount, most of the money is used to buy the kid’s toys, snacks, clothes, stationery, or save for their future educational expenditure.
Chinese New Year Send Greetings and Red Envelopes through Wechat
With the popularity of instant messaging apps, greeting cards are seldom seen. From the morning to the midnight of the New Year’s Eve, people use the app Wechat to send various text messages, voice messages, and emojis, some of which featuring the New Year’s animal sign, to exchange greetings and good wishes.
Digital red envelopes are becoming considerably popular and a big red envelope in a group chat always starts a happy grabbing game.
Watching CCTV New Year’s Gala – 20:00 to 0:30
It is undeniable that the CCTV New Year’s Gala is China’s most-watched television special, despite the declining viewership in recent years. The 4.5-hour live broadcast features music, dance, comedy, opera, and acrobatic performances.
Although the audience becomes more and more critical of the programs, that never stops people turning on the TV on time. The delightful songs and words act as a habitual background to a reunion dinner, for after all it’s been a tradition ever since 1983.
Setting off Firecrackers at 0:00
There is a New Year bell on the TV gala at 0:00, but you can hardly hear it since there would be loud bangs of firecrackers, from 0:00 to 0:30 and even later.
Chinese people have by long tradition set off firecrackers, originally to scare away the legendary monster Nian which emerges at midnight.
In recent years, many urban areas have a firecracker ban or set special area or period for fireworks, to prevent accidents and threats to air quality.
Chinese New Year Half-month Visiting Relatives – from One Family to Another
After a day at home, people start to visit relatives from the second day of the New Year. The married couples go to visit the wife’s parents’ home on the second day.
The following days will be spent in various relatives’ houses. For some extended families in rural areas, half a month is barely enough to visit everyone.
People bring gifts to one another’s homes and give red envelopes to the kids. That’s a ritual.
Folk Shows and Temple Fairs – Lasting to 15th day of 1st lunar month
In urban areas, there are bustling temple fairs with religious worship, costume performances, games, and local snacks. Some locations have lantern fairs, offering great night fun.
In rural areas, more authentic folk shows are likely to be seen, including the yang ko dance and stilt walking in north China and dragon and lion dances prevailing in southern regions.
What to Eat – Priority of the Festival
In China, an old saying goes ‘Food is the first important thing for people’ while a modern saying ‘3 pounds’ weight gain at every festival.’ Both show the Chinese people’s love of food.
There probably are no other people quite like the Chinese who are so passionate and fastidious about cooking. Besides basic requirements of appearance, smell, and taste, they insist on creating festival foods bearing auspicious meanings and bring good luck.