Chinese New Year

From Academic Kids

Chinese New Year also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, one of the traditional Chinese holidays, is celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, which falls on the day on which 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 this case, the New Year falls on the third new moon after the Solstice. (The next time this occurs is in 2033.) Celebrated internationally, including in Chinatowns, Chinese New Year is the most important holiday of the Chinese people, and many East Asians such as Mongolians, Koreans and Vietnamese who have holidays which fall on the same day.



Around the New Year people greet each other with:

Traditional Chinese: 恭喜發財; Simplified Chinese: 恭喜发财; pinyin: Gōngxǐ fāc᩻ Hokkien: Keong hee huat chye; Cantonese: Kung hei fat choi, which translates to "Congratulations and be prosperous."

Traditional Chinese: 新年快樂; Simplified Chinese: 新年快乐; pinyin: Xīnniᮠku੬謠 which translates to "Happy New Year."


Traditionally, red packets (Mandarin'hong bao' 紅包; Hokkien 'ang pow' Cantonese 'lai see' 利是) are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebrations, from married couples to unmarried people. Chinese New Year is celebrated with firecrackers, dragon dances and lion dances. Typically the game of mahjong is played.

Reunion dinner

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 (鱼, y? included, but not eaten, as the Chinese phrase 年年有鱼/餘 (niᮠniᮠyǒu y? "every year there is fish/leftover") is a homophone for phrases which could mean "be blessed every year" or "have profit every year", since "y?t; is also the pronounciation 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". 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 New Year's Day

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 New Year's Day

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 New Year's Day

The seventh day traditionally is everyone'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.


There are many foods in Chinese culture associated with the Lunar New Year. 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.
  • Yusheng, a salad of raw fish and shredded crunchy vegetables (such as carrots, jicama, pickled ginger and pomelo) in a plum sauce dressing. It is especially popular in Singapore and Malaysia. It was originally served on the seventh day of new year but now it can be obtained easily from two weekends prior to the new year. But it is just a tradition .
  • 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. Even though, Chinese believe the third day (年初三) of the Chinese New Year, is not appropriate to visit family and friends, and called 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. These dates will slowly drift over tens of thousands of years because the Gregorian calendar is a rule-based calendar that only approximates the true astronomical calculations used by the Chinese calendar.

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.

Animal Branch Dates
Rat Zi 1996 February 19 2008 February 7
Ox Chou 1997 February 7 2009 January 26
Tiger Yin 1998 January 28 2010 February 14
Rabbit Mao 1999 February 16 2011 February 3
Dragon Chen 2000 February 5 2012 January 23
Snake Si 2001 January 24 2013 February 10
Horse Wu 2002 February 12 2014 January 31
Goat Wei 2003 February 1 2015 February 19
Monkey Shen 2004 January 22 2016 February 8
Rooster You 2005 February 9 2017 January 28
Dog Xu 2006 January 29 2018 February 16
Pig Hai 2007 February 18 2019 February 5

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.

Because of this, there are many online Chinese Sign calculators that will give a person an incorrect sign if a January/February date is given, because many calculators only categorize the signs by years and not by exact dates. The following website [1] ( contains a JavaScript which will give a person an incorrect sign if he or she has a January February month. For example, if January 25, 1976 is entered into the calculator, it will say "dragon" when it should say "rabbit". Yet this inaccurate JavaScript has already been added to hundreds of websites.

See Chinese astrology for a list of Chinese New Year dates for every year from 1900 to 2020, covering one full sexagesimal cycle (19241983) and portions of two others.

See also

External links


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