Chinese New Year falls on February 8th 2016. Each year is assigned one of 12 Zodiac signs with an associated animal, and 2016 will be the year of the Monkey, the 9th animal in the 12 year cycle. The Chinese believe that each sign has associated characteristics, with people born under the Monkey sign believed to be especially sociable, enthusiastic and intelligent; however they can be quick to anger and even jealous on occasion. Notable people born under this sign include Leonardo Da Vinci, rock star Mick Jagger, Julius Caesar, James Bond actor Daniel Craig and Charles Dickens, all extremely successful in their careers. Monkeys often make great leaders!
Other traits of people born in this sign are that they can be very lucky in many areas of their lives, but often need to be cautious with money and their health, especially in these particular years. Leading a balanced lifestyle and enjoying social events will usually help! It’s possible to combine the Chinese sign with a Western Zodiac sign to reveal even more traits; for example a person born in the Year of the Monkey and under Pisces is likely to be generous and kind-hearted, while Geminis will be especially confident!
To help you celebrate, here are some fun facts about this holiday:
- Chinese hold their new year celebrations between the 21st of January and February 20th, depending on the Chinese lunar calendar; so although calendar years have a fixed start and end date, the Chinese New Year can be any of 31 different dates!
- A typical Chinese New Year celebration lasts for 15 days, the longest festival in the Chinese calendar. The day itself is a public holiday not just in China but in many other countries, including the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Additionally, the day is celebrated worldwide by Chinese communities.
- The New Year celebrations typically take place at home, and the events are very family-oriented. Naturally this can cause the country’s transport networks to come to a standstill as everyone travels to see their relatives and loved ones. it is estimated that more than 200 million Chinese undertake long journeys to return home for the celebrations.
- The celebration is actually known as “Spring Festival” in China, even though it falls in the middle of the winter! This is because the ancient solar calendar, which depicts 24 periods through the year, classifies the start of Spring as the period from February 4th to 18th.
- It is considered good luck to thoroughly clean the house for the festival, thus getting rid of any bad feelings. Failing to do so can bring dishonour and bad luck to the family rather than the good fortune that everyone would like.
- The main celebrations usually begin with a family gathering and meal on the eve of the Spring Festival. A typical meal will include extra luxuries and special treats as well as typical fish or chicken dishes. This is also an opportunity for the family to get together and exchange gifts.
- Chinese families will usually fill their houses with red decorations as this is held to be a very lucky colour. The streets and public places may also be filled with red banners and signs at this time.
- Most homes will include strips of red paper, known as “Chunlian”. These contain messages known as Spring Couplets and usually convey messages of good health and fortune. A typical decoration contains four Chinese characters in gold writing – these are known as “Hui Chun”.
- It is a tradition for younger family members to receive gifts of cash from older relatives, rather than wrapped presents; the money is generally given in a red envelope, to reinforce the positive feeling. It is also common for employees to get such cash gifts as bonuses from their employers.
- China is home to the world’s fireworks industry and the Spring festival will see hundreds of thousands of displays and organised events, as well as millions of fireworks lit at home. The tradition is that the fireworks scare away evil spirits and demons. The largest displays are set off around midnight, similarly to January 1st New Year celebrations worldwide.
- The two weeks of celebrations usually end with a Lantern Festival; on the eve of the 15th day, families and friends again come together to eat and to put up lanterns or release them into the skies.
- The Lantern Festival falls on the night of the first full moon of the Chinese New Year.
- The Chinese expression for Happy New Year is “Xinnian Kuaile”, which is pronounced as “sshin–nyen kwhy–luh“. It is common for the Chinese to greet strangers as well as friends at this time, to pass on good luck and fortune for the year ahead.
- Children remain off school throughout the holiday period, and can even go a whole month before returning to the classroom.
- No list of fun facts about Chinese New Year would be complete without mention of a monster! Tradition says that Nian, a ferocious beast who preys on humans, emerges from his hiding place on New Year’s Eve, but is frightened off by the red decorations and banners!
- Traditional foods include fish, which is served at the end of the New Year’s meal and symbolizes abundance, and a sticky fruitcake called Neen Gow or Nian Gow.
- Shou Sui is the practice of staying up until midnight as a family to greet the new year.
- During the Chinese New Year, people often greet each other by shouting “auspicious phrases” thought to bring luck, like “gōng xǐ fā cái,” which translates to “Congratulations and be prosperous.” Children sometimes use the following variant of this greeting when they are feeling cheeky: “gōng xǐ fā cái, hóng bāo ná lái.” That means “Congratulations and be prosperous, now give me a red envelope!”
The Chinese New Year is celebrated worldwide
In addition to China, Spring Festival celebrations are organised in dozens of countries around the world, with in excess of 2 billion people taking part; countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines have huge celebrations, while communities gather in Chinatowns worldwide to hold events and set off fireworks and lanterns. Public holidays lasting from one to four days are common throughout Asia, while celebrations can extend for a week in Vietnam.
Hong Kong usually holds a major horse racing festival at this time, which proves extremely popular with its citizens and visitors – events include fireworks, theatrical shows and many other displays. The events in Hong Kong are considered to be among the very best celebrations in the world each year; as well as fantastic major events there are also many bargains on offer from shops and companies across the city, and huge amounts of beautiful flowers used for decoration and display.
Major western capitals such as London hold their own Chinese New Year celebrations; London often sees more than half a million people across the city taking part in organised events. It’s been estimated that some 4 million journeys take place, not just in China but in other countries, as people make their way home for the festival and celebrations.
So which Chinese Zodiac Animal represents you?
Below you can see the Chinese translation of each of the animals in the zodiac, further down you can check the animal that represents you by looking up the year you were born in the table.
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