What is the Chinese New Year and who celebrates it?
The Chinese New Year signals the end of the winter period and is a sign of new growth to come. Unlike the Western New Year, which is based on the Gregorian calendar, the Chinese New Year is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar, which means that the official date changes each year.
The Chinese New Year is often called the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, and it’s widely celebrated in most East Asian countries, including Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. This year the New Year falls on Sunday 22nd January 2023 and it will celebrate the Year of the Rabbit.
The Chinese New Year is the time to worship ancestors and celebrate with loved ones. The holiday lasts for seven days, with many businesses closing so that people can go home and celebrate with their families.
Year of the Rabbit – what does it mean?
There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
In Chinese culture, the rabbit is known to be the luckiest out of all the twelve animals. It symbolizes mercy, elegance, and beauty. People who are born in the year of the rabbit are calm and peaceful. Recent years of the Rabbit are 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, and 2023.
As the Chinese zodiac starts over every 12 years, your animal year will come around when you are 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, etc. According to ancient Chinese superstition, in your birth sign year, you will offend the God of Age and will have bad luck during that year.
How long are the New Year celebrations?
Celebrations of Chinese New Year traditionally last for 16 days, starting from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival. The most notable dates of the Lunar New Year 2023 are these three days:
Giving and receiving red packets.
Giving and receiving red envelopes filled with money, also known as hongbao, has a significant meaning in Chinese culture. The origins of this tradition started with gold coins that naturally radiate light, which scared off demons who were attacking children in sleep.
The coins were tied together with red string and placed under their pillow, which over time evolved into the red envelopes that hold paper money as we know now. New, clean and crisp banknotes are given to carry blessings, prosperity and good luck for the year ahead.
The importance of numbers
The amount of monetary gifts included in the red packets is a very important aspect of the Chinese New Year. Even numbers are lucky, especially numbers including 8, which is a homophone for wealth, and 6, which is a homophone for smooth.
The only even number not considered to be a lucky number is the number 4, as this sounds similar to the word for death. Uneven numbers are considered to be unlucky. All monetary gifts must be in even amounts, the number of gifts given must be even, and even the exchanging of gifts must be done using both hands.
Watching Lion and Dragon dances
Lion dances and dragon dances are also seen on Lunar New Year’s Day. Once very popular in China, they are reappearing in many places. The lion dance is one of the most important traditions of the Chinese New Year.
It is performed to bring prosperity and good luck for the upcoming year. The lion dance is also a way to create a festive atmosphere and bring happiness. Chinese dragons symbolize wisdom, power, and wealth, and they are believed to bring good luck. Nowadays, dragon dances are performed during festive occasions as a means to chase away evil spirits and welcome them in prosperous times.
Playing Mahjong with family and friends
The most popular Chinese New Year game, without a doubt, is Majiang (Mah Jong). The traditional Chinese game is played using tiles and resembles the western game ‘Rummy’.
It’s considered a must-do activity specifically during the Lunar New Year’s Eve celebration; the game symbolizes friendship and family bonds and embodies the tradition of passing on Chinese culture between generations.
Making traditional food and dumplings
Traditional Lunar New Year foods include longevity noodles, a whole steamed fish for abundance, sticky rice balls for togetherness, and of course, dumplings. The dumplings themselves look like money pouches and are said to represent fortune and prosperity in the coming year.
According to ancient legend, the number of dumplings you eat during the Lunar New Year predicts the amount of money you’ll make in the upcoming year (the more, the better). While pork is the most common dumpling filling, you can also opt for shrimp, chicken or vegetables.
Happy New Year of the Rabbit from everyone at Arc!