Here in the UK, New Year’s Eve is but a distant memory and 2020 is already in full swing. However, in China, their new calendar is only about to begin; Saturday 25th January marks the start of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Here are the top ten things you might not have known about the Chinese New Year and how it’s celebrated:
The other name for Chinese New Year
In China, the Chinese New Year is also known as chunjie, (春節) or the Spring Festival. Despite January and February technically still falling into the wintery months, the celebrations typically mark the end of the coldest period and celebrates the impending spring, which brings harvest, lighter days and new beginnings.
What date does the Chinese New Year fall on?
China adopted the Gregorian calendar over 100 years ago, however, the New Year, or chunjie celebrations are based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar. According to age-old tradition, Chinese New Year falls on the second new moon after winter solstice (which is typically somewhere between January 21st and February 19th).
Therefore, Chinese New Year is celebrated on different days every year.
The history of Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year traditions are thought to have begun over 2000 years ago. According to mythology, a monster called Nian would appear at the end of each winter to ravage China and kill its people. The townsfolk used bright lights, loud noises, and the colour red to scare the predator away.
This mythology still influences traditions today, as The Spring Festival is still centred around bright lights, music, the colour red and family reunion.
The most fireworks in the world are set off that night
The Chinese invented fireworks in the 12th century, making them the first to use the explosives in a New Year’s celebration.
This tradition has continued for centuries and played a key role in the Chinese New Year festivities.
The fireworks also play a part in the mythology of the monster Nian previously mentioned, as another way to scare the great beast off.
Chinese New Year causes the largest human migration in the world
Similar to Christian traditions in the west, when Christmas is a time to see family and relatives, family reunion is central to Chinese New Year celebrations and everyone is encouraged to return home for the New Year’s Eve dinner.
The migration back home and to go on leave from work is called chunyun (春运), or Spring Migration.
‘Normal’ activities become taboo over the festive period
To most people, activities such as showering or cutting your hair are considered normal and encouraged most of the time!
Interestingly, many ‘normal’ tasks are considered taboo during Chinese New Year; activities such as showering, hair cutting, using scissors, knives or other sharp things, arguing and swearing, or saying unlucky words such as ‘death and sickness’ are vetoed during this celebratory period.
People believe that committing one of these taboo acts will provide bad luck for the upcoming year; for example, washing your hair means washing away your wealth for the year.
The colour red is everywhere
Red in Chinese culture is a symbol of happiness, wealth and prosperity and also thought to ward off evil spirits.
If you’re heading to China over Chinese New Year, hopefully red is your colour, as you’ll be surrounded by red lanterns, red paper cuttings, red lights, red costumes and outfits.
Chinese New Year ends with the Lantern Festival
The Lantern Festival marks the conclusion of Chinese New Year and is an act of celebrating family, society and the coming of spring.
The release of lanterns is universal, but towns and villages have their own traditions surrounding the festival. Some perform dragon dances whilst others leap through fire.
These lantern traditions are also thought to have begun over 2000 years ago.
One sixth of the world’s people celebrate Chinese New Year
China is not the only country that celebrates Chinese New Year. Neighbouring countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, and some other Asian countries around the world host celebrations and festivals for the Chinese New Year.
These festivities have even spread to large cities around the world such as London, New York, Vancouver and Sydney.
Interestingly, San Francisco takes the crown for the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of China.
Travel Money in China
If you’re inspired by Chinese culture and thinking of taking a trip over – it’s a good idea to get clued up on their travel money before you go.
The official name for Chinese currency is Renminbi, which literally translates to People's Currency and is abbreviated to RMB. The most widespread international usage is yuan, which is abbreviated to CNY. The official symbol for the Chinese yuan is ¥.
However, it’s worth noting that the Chinese yuan or RMB is only used in Mainland China. Hong Kong's currency is the Hong Kong Dollar and Macau's currency is called the Pataca.
A Caxton multicurrency card is a great travel companion as it is accepted in more than 35 million locations around the world (wherever you see the MasterCard logo). What’s more, we don’t charge any transaction fees outside the UK making it a smart and secure way to spend abroad.
Chinese New Year brings people together from all over the world. It is a celebration of new beginnings and an act of battling away any bad spirits or luck.