Chinese New Year

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Chinese New Year

Cynthia Shi, Editor/Journalist

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Chinese New Year is often confused with the American New Year, which takes place on January 1st. Chinese New Year, on the other hand, lasts for 23 days in total; although, only 7- 10 of those days are observed as Holidays, with days off from school and work. Also known as the Lunar New Year, it is based on the Chinese lunar calendar. This year, it lasts from February 5th, the first day of the lunar calendar, through February 19th.  


Chinese New Year

The 23 days of Chinese New Year is split into 3 parts –

  • Little Year (January 28th to February 4th): The preparation for the new year, lasting until New Years Eve.
  • Spring Festival (February 5th to February 15th): This is when Chinese New Year officially begins.
  • Lantern Festival (February 16th to February 19th): People begin preparing for the Lantern Festival, which takes place on the 19th.  



Since the holiday lasts this long, what do people do to celebrate it? Well, traditionally, this is the time of the year for family reunions, especially for eating dinner together on new years eve. It is also common practice to set off fireworks of all sorts, and put up decorations. A popular tradition is to give out red packets filled with money to children as a sign of good luck. Public performances are also done, such as lion and dragon dances.


The spring festival is a time when families gather to celebrate the New Year. Together, they make traditional foods like dumplings, buns, and porridge. Red lanterns and banners with good luck characters are put up to represent good luck.


The lantern festival is a time for socializing and reuniting, and on this day, everyone is allowed to go onto the streets to celebrate, regardless of their jobs. Various activities such as lighting lanterns, moon gazing, eating traditional food, and watching lion dances are essential parts of the lantern festival. This is also a time to celebrate religious culture, such as buddhism. Relatively modern festivals take place on this day as well, such as the torch festival, where people light torches and sticks and dance.


Traditional food is valued during Chinese New Year as well. Red dates represent wealth and prosperity, peanuts represent vitality and longevity, dried longans symbolize reunion, sunflower seeds mean you will have many children and grandchildren, sweets mean that you will have a sweeter life, steamed new year cakes symbolizes having prosperity and promotions, and glutinous rice cakes mean a bumper grain harvest in the coming years.


Lion Dances

The Myth

The original reason for celebrating Chinese New Year was to ward of the monster Nian, which means ‘year’ in chinese, by covering things in red, setting fireworks at midnight, and eating dinner with your family on New Year’s Eve. In the beginning, however, people did not know this tradition, and would hide in the mountains each year Nian emerged from the depths of the sea to feast on humans and animals. This all changed when a beggar repaid an old woman for taking him in by scaring Nian away. The beggar had put up red paper on the doors, worn red, and set off firecrackers when Nian arrived. Nian, frightened by the man laughing in red, had turned away to go back to its dwelling. When the rest of the villagers realized that Nian feared these loud noises and red, they decided to continue this tradition every year.


The Year of the Pig

This year is the year of the pig, or zhu (猪), the 12th animal in the 12 zodiac animals. Pigs are a symbol of wealth in Chinese culture, and are said to have good personalities, with good fortunes. Therefore, we can expect to receive a lot of good fortune this year!


After reading this article, you may want to celebrate this as well! It’s never too late to try something new, so don’t be afraid to take part in this annual tradition, as Chinese New Year is something everyone can celebrate. If you would like to know what your zodiac animal/symbol is, go to to read all about it.