The date of Chinese New Year is based on the Chinese lunar calendar and not the Gregorian calendar we use. It always falls somewhere in the period from 21st January to 20th February.
This year it begins on the 7th February (New Year's Eve) to Saturday 13th February.
2016 is the year of the Monkey!
The Chinese animal zodiac is a repeating cycle of 12 years, with each year being represented by an animal and its reputed attributes. Traditionally these zodiac animals were used to date the years.
In order, the 12 animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
The monkey years are believed to be particularly unlucky, especially for people born in a year of the Monkey, it’s believed to be the most unlucky in the 12-year cycle.
“Monkeys” (people who are born with that birth sign) are particularly careful about their health, love lives, career, and investments in Monkey years.
Why do people celebrate Chinese New Year?
There are many interesting legends and stories that explain the start of the Chinese New Year festival in different ways but it’s believed there are just two main reasons for the festival;
Chinese people believe that a good start to the year will lead to a good year. Chinese New Year is a time for families to be together and to wish for fortune and luck for them as a family.
How do the Chinese celebrate?
Chinese New Year is usually celebrated by the family returning home from where ever they are and having a big family dinner – known as the ‘reunion dinner’. This is considered the most important dinner of the year.
It usually entails large families of many generations sitting around a large table enjoying food and time together.
Another tradition is to decorate homes and buildings with lucky red items. Streets, houses and buildings that celebrate the New Year are usually decorated with red lanterns and couplets.
Red is commonly used throughout the Chinese New Year festival as it’s believed to be an auspicious colour. As it is the year of the monkey this year there will also be monkey themed decorations available
The most common gift usually given are lucky red envelopes which are mainly given to children. These red envelopes contain money and are given with the hope that the receiver will receive good luck and money for the coming year.
Fireworks are also used to celebrate the start of Chinese New Year. A way of saying goodbye to the old one and hello to the new. Usually they start by setting off a small firework once the New Year clock strikes, which is followed by three bigger fireworks. It’s considered the louder the three larger fireworks are the better the year ahead will be.
Smaller and more rural areas in China still retain the more traditional celebrations such as ancestor worship, dragon dances and setting off fireworks.
At temple fairs in many Chinese cities you can watch traditional performances such as dragon dances. These are usually colourful loud events with music and people dressed in larger dragon costumes.
Traditional Chinese foods are consumed throughout the celebration, these include dumplings, fish, rice dumplings, spring rolls, New Years cake, laba congee and hot pot.
Chinese New Year in London
In Chinatown in the heart of London the Chinese New Year is widely celebrated each year with thousands of people flocking to attend one of the largest celebrations outside of Asia.
The streets are decorated with traditional red lanterns and this celebration usually holds Europe’s largest lion dance which features ten lion teams. Other performances such as traditional dance troupes, acrobats, dragon and flying lion dances, opera and martial arts performances are also on display.
As 2016 is the year of the monkey there will also be monkey dancers and acrobats to celebrate the New Year.
We hope you enjoy Chinese New Year this year – let us know what you do to celebrate by posting your pictures on our Facebook or Twitter pages.
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