5 things you’ve always wanted to know about the Chinese New Year


1. It doesn’t fall at the same time every year.


The start of the Chinese New Year depends entirely on the phases of the moon. The date of the New Year follows the lunar or lunisolar calendar rather than on the Gregorian calendar. The date changes on a year to year basis, but it will usually begin somewhere between January 21 and February 10. The celebration for the Chinese New Year begins on the first day of the lunar month. It will then continue for 15 days, until the moon is a full moon. Each of the 15 days of the New Year celebrations has a particular purpose, or role. One day is dedicated to visiting family, and another day on eating specific special foods.

2. Each year is named for an animal.


Each year of the Chinese New Year is named after an animal. There are twelve different animals, as the years follow a 12-year cycle. Once the 12-year cycle is completed, they begin again, repeating the animals in the cycle list. The 12 animals are: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep (ram/goat), monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The Chinese New Year in 2015 was the Year of the Sheep (ram/goat), therefore 2016 will be the Year of the Monkey.

3. There are a lot of symbols for luck.


In the Chinese culture, the number 8 is considered to be good luck. During New Year’s celebrations, the Chinese will hang Nianhua on their doors. These are Chinese New Year pictures that are traditionally hung on doors for luck. This tradition dates as far back as 800 years! During the Song Dynasty, these images were first hung and depicted scenes of posterity and good luck. Common images for the Nianhua include birds, fruits, and a plump baby with a large fish. During the 20th century, the Communist Party used the Nianhua as propaganda. Vases of flowers are also placed around houses in preparation for the New Year to symbolize rebirth and growth. Bowls of oranges and tangerines are also displayed as they symbolize wealth and good luck.

4. There are equally as many signs of bad luck.


In preparation for the Chinese New Year, people will often thoroughly clean their houses and sweep floors to get rid of dirt, dust, and bad luck (or huiqi), which are inauspicious “breaths” that have been collected over the old year and must be removed. People are encouraged during this time also not to use foul language or “unlucky” words, particularly on New Year’s Day, as doing so would be considered a bad omen. On New Year’s Day, Chinese people are traditionally supposed to omit from washing their hair as it is believed that it may wash away good luck for the New Year. During the Chinese New Year, it is also widely considered unlucky to greet anyone in the bedroom. For this reason, everyone, even the sick, will try to get dressed and join everyone in the living room. The 5th day of the Chinese New Year is known as Po Woo. On this particular day, people will stay at home to welcome the God of Wealth. On Po Woo, no one will visit friends or family, as it is believed that visiting would bring bad luck to both parties.

5. 1/5 of the world’s population celebrates the Chinese New Year.


The Chinese New Year is China's winter vacation week, like the week between Christmas and New Year's Day other Western countries. Schools in China will get about a month off, and universities will often get even more. It is a public holiday in China, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as many other Asian countries including: Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia, North Korea, Brunei, Taiwan and Singapore. In the other nine Asian countries, however, less days are awarded as holiday days.