By Amanda Xi
Chinese New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world. It’s the most important holiday in China and to Chinese people all over.
Here are seven interesting facts that you probably didn’t know about Chinese New Year.
1. Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival
In China, you’ll hear it being called the Spring Festival. It’s still very wintry, but the holiday marks the end of the coldest days. People welcome spring and what it brings along: planting and harvests, new beginnings and fresh starts.
You can also call it the Lunar New Year, because countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, North and South Korea, and Vietnam celebrate it as well. And because the Spring Festival goes according to the lunar calendar. Which means...
2. There's no set date for Chinese New Year
According to the Lunar calendar, the Spring Festival is on January 1st and lasts until the 15th (the full moon). Unlike Western holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, when you try to calculate it with the solar (Gregorian) calendar, the date is all over the place.
Chinese New Year ranges from January 21 to February 20. In 2024, it occurs on February 10. Modern Chinese calendars use the Gregorian calendar but include lunar holidays.
3. It is a day for praying to gods and fighting off monsters
The Spring Festival was originally a ceremonial day to pray to gods for a good planting and harvest season. As an agrarian society, the harvest was everything. People also prayed to their ancestors, as they were treated as gods.
According to one legend, there was a monster named Nian. It would come about every New Year’s Eve. Most people would hide in their homes. But one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. The next day, people celebrated their survival by setting off even more firecrackers. And that practice became a crucial part of the Spring Festival.
4. Children receive lucky money in red envelopes
Gifts are also exchanged during the Spring Festival. But Chinese children receive something else too— money in red envelopes (angpao). This money is supposed to help transfer fortune from the elders to the kids. They can also be given between bosses and employees, co-workers, and friends.
5. You eat dumplings to welcome the New Year
Most people will eat dumplings during the New Year’s Eve dinner. Others will eat them for the first breakfast. Contrary to popular belief though, dumplings aren’t popular everywhere in China. It’s more of a northern thing. In the south, people would rather eat spring rolls (egg rolls) and balls of glutinous rice in soup called tangyuan.
6. Chinese New Year deserts have special meanings
A lot of cultures have symbolic foods, such as the Yule Log cake. But many Chinese New Year desserts have special meanings behind them too. And it’s mostly puns in the name. Take the tangyuan for example. It literally means “soup balls.” But it sounds like tuanyuan which means reunion. So it’s no surprise it’s a popular dessert during Chinese New Year.
Tikoy (in the Philippines) is a type of sweet rice cake. It symbolizes success & prosperity each and every year.
7. The Chinese decorate everything red for Chinese New Year
Every family will deck their homes in this color. Do you remember the story about Nian? Firecrackers aren’t the only thing that scared the monster away. Red is also an invaluable weapon, and used in nearly all Chinese New Year decorations.
Red is China’s favorite color and it’s pretty obvious during Chinese New Year. The Chinese will hang up red lanterns and strings of (real or fake) red grapes or chili peppers, paste red paper onto doors and windows.
New clothes are also believed to bring good luck and start over fresh. People will add new red clothing to their Spring Festival wardrobe too.