The Chinese year begins on 19 February 2015. This year its the year of the sheep, it can also refer to the year of the goat or ram. The Chinese word yáng applies to both goats and sheep, with shānyáng specifically goats and miányáng sheep. In English, the sign may be called either. The interpretation of sheep or goat depends on culture. In Vietnamese, the sign is mui, which is unambiguously goat. In Japan, on the other hand, the sign is hitsuji,sheep; while in Korea and Mongolia the sign is also sheep or ram).
To help you celebrate, here are 8 fun facts about this holiday (from Wikipedia):
- The traditional Chinese New Year celebration lasts 15 days. This makes it the longest and most important festival for Chinese all over the world. A public holiday in countries such as China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Also it is celebrated in Chinatowns all over the world.
- 2015 is the year of the sheep. People born in this year are said to find comfort in organisation and planning and tend to be guarded towards letting people get close to them
- Everyone goes home for the Chinese New Year celebrations, if they can. The period just before the Chinese New Year, called chunyun, is the busiest travel time of the entire year. All across China and beyond, you’ll find people on their way home to spend this time with their families.
- The Chinese New Year is seen as the perfect time to do some spring cleaning. Traditionally, it was believed that cleaning house for the new year’s celebrations swept bad luck away and helped ensure good fortune in the year to come.
- 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.
- Red decorations are everywhere, because the colour red is considered to be one of the luckiest colours of all. Older family members use red envelopes to give gifts of cash to their younger relatives.
- 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!”
You can find out more about Chinese New Year traditions in an article written by one of our translators in Beijing