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Celebrating Chinese New Year

Category: entertainment

Everything you need to know about this vibrant cultural festival in February. 

It might seem strange, but not every culture celebrates the first of January as the beginning of the New Year.  For example, Russian Orthodox New Year occurs on January 14, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) happens around September - and this year, Chinese New Year begins on February 19. Here’s everything you need to know to celebrate your second New Year for 2015!

What is Chinese New Year?

Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year runs for about two weeks, and is similar to the Western calendar New Year in that it marks the end of the previous year. The reason it falls on a different day is because the traditional Chinese calendar is based on both the moon and the sun, as opposed to just the sun, which makes it a little more complicated. And just like Mother’s Day, the date of Chinese New Year changes each year.

Alongside China, Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries such as Hong Kong, Thailand and the Philippines, as well as local Chinatowns all over the world!

The year of the Wooden Sheep

Each Chinese calendar year is represented by both an animal and an element which is said to affect the children born in that year. For 2015, the element is wood and the animal is the sheep - the eighth sign of the Chinese calendar, which is a lucky number! People born in the Year of the Wooden Sheep are thoughtful, creative and generous. Famous Year of the Sheep births include Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, Heath Ledger, Michelangelo and Julia Roberts!

How is it celebrated?

Traditionally, Chinese New Year was a festival to celebrate ancestors and various gods, but today it’s usually recognised simply as a time to bring the extended family together; Even in China today, many workers leave their hometowns to seek work in the city and only return home once a year during the ten-day New Year celebrations, so it’s universally regarded as an important time to take a well-earned break and reconnect with loved ones. 

Within China, different regions have their own customs and traditions, but the most common you’ll see across the world include:

  • An annual family reunion banquet with the extended family. The whole family gathers to make delicious traditional dishes from scratch such as dumplings, spring rolls and fried rice
  • A ‘cleansing’ of the home by each family. This spring clean is said to ‘sweep away’ bad fortune, and make way for good luck, in the new year – but make sure you do it before the actual new year or superstition says you’ll wash away the luck of the new year
  • Parades, street parties, and homemade decorations such paper scrolls with words like ‘happiness’, ‘wealth’ and ‘longevity’ written in Chinese calligraphy to invite prosperity
  • Gifts of money in red paper envelopes, given to the younger generations of the family or employees

Lantern Festival

Chinese New Year ends on the fifteenth day of the new year with the lantern festival, in which families create and hang paper lanterns to symbolise letting go of their past selves, and embracing the future.

To get involved, why not host a Chinese New Year dinner party, get the kids to make some Chinese lanterns, or simply plan a weekend day trip to visit your nearest Chinatown for some Yum Cha. Gong Xi Fa Cai (Happy New Year)!

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