Celebrate the Chinese New Year!

The Chinese New Year begins Tuesday, February 5, 2019.  It is the Year of the Pig.

Celebrate the Chinese New Year: The Year of the Pig

2019 is the Year of the Pig

According to www.chinesenewyear2018.com, the facts below are just 21 Things You Didn’t Know about the Chinese New Year.

1. Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival

In China, you’ll hear it being called chunjie (春节), or the Spring Festival. It’s still very wintry, but the holiday marks the end of the coldest days. People welcome spring and what it brings along: planting and harvests, new beginnings and fresh starts.

You can also call it the Lunar New Year, because countries such as North and South Korea and Vietnam celebrate it as well. And because the Spring Festival goes according to the lunar calendar. Which means . . .

2. There’s no set date for Chinese New Year

According to the Lunar calendar, the Spring Festival is on January 1st and lasts until the 15th (the full moon). But when you try to calculate it with the solar (Gregorian) calendar, the date is all over the place.

Chinese New Year ranges from January 21 to February 20. In 2018, it occurs on February 16. For a full list of dates and events check out our Chinese New Year calendar.

The lunar calendar is still really important in China, even though it has officially moved to the Gregorian calendar like the rest of the world. All traditional holidays and days such as the Winter Solstice are celebrated. Some people still calculate their birthdays and ages according to the lunar calendar too!

3. It is a day for praying to gods

The Spring Festival was originally a ceremonial day to pray to gods for a good planting and harvest season. As an agrarian society, the harvest was everything. People also prayed to their ancestors, as they were treated as gods (see Mulan for reference).

4. and fighting off monsters

But the myths are much more interesting. According to one legend, there was a monster named Nian (年). It would come about every New Year’s Eve. Most people would hide in their homes. But one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. The next day, people celebrated their survival by setting off even more firecrackers. And that practice became a crucial part of the Spring Festival.

5. The most fireworks are set off in the world that night

As in the myth about Nian, firecrackers are supposed to scare off monsters and bad luck. So people stay up on Chinese New Year’s Eve and set off firecrackers at midnight. In the morning, firecrackers are used again to welcome the new year and good luck.

6. (but sometimes it’s illegal)

Due to safety reasons and concerns for air pollution, many Chinese cities have banned fireworks. More than 500 cities have restrictions too.

But… many people don’t care and they do it anyway. Beijing had banned fireworks for 13 years. The ban was lifted in 2006 because of the angry public.

If you’re in China during this time, you’ll probably be able to hear and see the explosions for at least 3 nights (and it can go on for weeks).

7. It is the longest Chinese holiday

The Spring Festival is technically 15 days. But celebrations start on New Year’s Eve (making it 16 days). You can also say that the holiday season starts in (lunar) December with the Laba Festival (腊八节—là bā jié). That’s around 40 days of celebrations!

Traditionally, you have to spend time with your family and can only go out after the 5th day. It’s a national holiday. The large majority of stores are closed too.

So in the month before, people will buy nian huo (年货), or New Year’s products. The Chinese stock up on cooking supplies, snacks, gifts, new clothes and more.

8. The Spring Festival causes the largest human migration in the world

The most important part of Chinese New Year is the family reunion. Everyone should come back home for the New Year’s Eve dinner.

But since in modern China, most elderly parents live in rural villages while their children work in the cities. The migration back home and to go on vacation is called chunyun (春运), or Spring Migration.

Plus, the earliest you can buy train tickets is 60 days before. It leads to a mad rush of literally fighting for tickets. In 2015, statistics showed that around 1,000 tickets were sold each second.

9. Singles hire fake boy/girlfriends to take home

You know those nosy relatives during Thanksgiving? It’s even worse in China. Especially since having children and passing down the family name is one of the most important parts in Chinese culture.

Some desperate singles resort to hire a fake boyfriend or girlfriend to take home. Those who can’t (or don’t want to) go home can rent themselves out. For some of the other questions though, such as your salary, career or when you want to have kids, can’t be helped.

10. No showering, sweeping or throwing out garbage allowed!

Showering isn’t allowed New Year’s Day. Sweeping and throwing out garbage isn’t allowed before the 5th. This is to make sure you don’t wash away the good luck!

On the other hand, there’s a day before the Spring Festival dedicated to cleaning. This day is to sweep the bad luck away and make room for the good.

What else is taboo during Chinese New Year?

  • Hair cutting (before February 2)
  • Using scissors, knives and other sharp things
  • Arguing, swearing
  • Saying unlucky words (such as “death” and “sickness”)
  • Breaking things

Check out our full list of taboos to learn more.

11. Children receive lucky money in red envelopes

In other cultures, children receive gifts for holidays. Gifts are also exchanged during the Spring Festival. But Chinese children receive something else too—red envelopes.

Also called red packets or pockets, they include money. This money is supposed to help transfer fortune from the elders to the kids. They can also be given between bosses and employees, co-workers, and friends.

With the development of technology, digital red pockets are the trend now. People like to send one into group chats and watch the others fight for the money. This is called qiang hongbao (抢红包), or literally “snatching red pockets”.

12. You eat dumplings for every meal, every day

Well, technically you’re supposed to. But not many people do that anymore because you can have too much of even the most delicious foods. So most people will eat dumplings during the New Year’s Eve dinner. Others will eat them for the first breakfast.

Contrary to popular belief though, dumplings aren’t popular everywhere in China. It’s more of a northern thing. In the South, people would rather eat spring rolls (egg rolls) and balls of glutinous rice in soup called tangyuan (汤圆).

13. Chinese New Year desserts have special meanings

A lot cultures have symbolic foods, such as the Yule Log cake. But so many Chinese New Year desserts have special meanings behind them. And it’s mostly puns in the name.

Take the tangyuan for example. It literally means “soup balls.” But it sounds like tuanyuan (团圆), which means reunion. So it’s no surprise it’s a popular dessert during Chinese New Year.

Nian gao (年糕) is a type of rice cake. It symbolizes success each and every year.

Fa gao (发糕) is a the hybrid of sponge cakes and muffins. People dye it festive colors. The fa is the same as in fa cai (发财), which means “to get rich.” And everyone wants that!

Isn’t it nice to have a better reason to get seconds?

14. There’s wine specifically for the Spring Festival

Chinese people love drinking. There’s a saying that there’s no manners and/or etiquette without wine. This means that you need to have wine for every ceremony, festival or important dinner.

There’s wine for engagement dinners, weddings, birthdays… and of course, the Spring Festival. With such a rich wine culture, it’s no surprise that there is a bunch of drinking games you play. However, it’s not all fun and games.

When you’re eating with someone older than you, as is the case with New Year’s dinners, you need to follow strict toasting etiquette rules. They include the order of toasts, seating, how you hold the wine glass etc. etc. To learn more read our post on Chinese New Year’s drinks and etiquette.

15. The Chinese decorate everything red for Chinese New Year

Every family will deck their homes in this color. Do you remember the story about Nian? Firecrackers aren’t the only thing that scared the monster away. Red is also an invaluable weapon, and used in nearly all Chinese New Year decorations.

The Chinese will hang up red lanterns and strings of (real or fake) chili peppers, paste red paper onto doors and windows, and more!

New clothes are also believed to bring good luck and start over fresh. People will add new red clothing to their Spring Festival wardrobe too.

16. Every year has a zodiac animal

Western horoscopes include 12 zodiacs, one for each month. There are 12 Chinese zodiacs as well, but the animal is for the entire year.

Chinese New Year zodiac animals

They are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

2018 is the year of the dog. Some of the animals (such as Rat, Snake, Dog and Pig) aren’t normally well-liked in Chinese culture. But as a zodiac, their positive traits are bestowed on people born that year.

They play a much bigger role than in Western cultures. Your animal can decide your career, health and relationship success. Make sure you find out what zodiac animal you are!

17. Your zodiac year is bad luck

Your benming year (本命年—běn mìng nián) is the year of your zodiac animal. And of the 12 year cycle, it is the unluckiest for you.

There are multiple explanations for this. The Chinese believe that children can easily be taken by demons. And your benming year is your rebirth year.

During this year, your weapon of defense is the color red. Just as you can decorate your home in red for protection and fortune, you can also wear red clothing. Many people will wear red underwear every day of the year. Others add on red shirts, pants, jewelry, insoles and more!

18. You grow 1 year older on the Spring Festival

In China, you have a “real” age (实岁—shí suì) and a “fake” nominal age (虚岁—xū suì). The real age is the one we all know about. You grow one year older on your birthday. The nominal age though, increases with the Spring Festival.

This was the age most people went with until recent times. But it’s still common nowadays, or used interchangeably. If you’re particular about it, make sure you ask!

19. The New Year greeting in Chinese is “xin nian kuai le”

The phrase literally means “Happy New Year.” But in Hong Kong and other Cantonese-speaking regions, it’s more common to say “gong hei fat choy.” In Mandarin Chinese, it’s “gong xi fa cai” (恭喜发财). It means “congratulations on the fortune.”

Chinese New Year calligraphy blessings

Calligraphy with New Year blessings.

If you check out other greetings or blessings, you’ll see that most are about:

  • Plentiful harvests
  • Wealth and fortune
  • Health and longevity
  • Having children and large families

Food, money and health are things that everyone wants. Passing down the family name is of utmost importance. That’s one of the reasons why China has such a large population.

20. Chinese New Year ends with the Lantern Festival

The first full moon of the (lunar) year is the Yuanxiao Festival (元宵节—yuán xiāo jié) or Lantern Festival (灯节—dēng jié). Though family is still important, it’s still a night of partying and freedom.

In ancient times, girls weren’t allowed to venture outside by themselves. But on this night, they were able to walk around, moon-gaze and look at the beautiful lanterns. Because of this, it’s also known as Valentine’s Day in China.

21. Chinese New Year is celebrated all around the world

One out of every 5 people in the world is Chinese. But that stat doesn’t include the millions of overseas Chinese and people of Chinese descent.

London, England; San Francisco, USA; Sydney, Australia; all claim to have the biggest Spring Festival celebrations outside of Asia.

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Chinatown in Chicago, IL, USA

 

 

Find out more regarding the Chinese New Year by clicking: Year of the Pig

Year of the Rooster – Chinese New Year 2017 – Jan. 28, 2017

The Year of the Rooster will begin on January 28, 2017.

Celebrations will begin on January 27, New Year’s Eve, and typically last around two weeks, making this the longest holiday in the Chinese calendar.

This year the festivities are set to end on February 2.

 

The Chinese calendar attaches different animals from the zodiac to each lunar year in a cycle of 12 years.

This year is the Year of the Rooster.

Roosters are the tenth sign in the zodiac and are seen as confident, honest and hardworking. They also enjoy being around people but can be seen as attention seekers.

But for people born in a rooster year – 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005 – it is set to be an unlucky time because tradition denotes that the year of your birth makes for an unlucky 12 months.

Red decorations and lanterns are commonplace during Chinese New Yer celebrations.

Red decorations and lanterns are commonplace during New year celebrations.(Photo by The Mirror.)

How is Chinese New Year celebrated?

Chinese New Year is celebrated with the ringing of bells, the lighting of firecrackers and watching traditional lion dances.

In China New Year’s Eve is seen as an important date, with families gathering together for a reunion dinner. Firecrackers are then let off to signal the end of last year and the beginning of next.

On New Year’s Day, families gather, clean their houses and sweep away bad-fortune.

Red envelopes stuffed with “lucky money” are given to children, along with written wishes for their kids to grow up healthy.

However Chinese New Year has also been touched by the digital age, with red envelope apps – where people can exchange cyber money – being launched.

People also decorate their houses with red paper cutouts, banners and special New Year paintings during the festive period. This year is also likely to see Rooster themed decorations.

Sweet and Sour Pork Recipe

by Rhonda Parkinson, Chinese Food Expert

This sweet and sour pork is prepared American-style with more batter and deep-fried twice for extra crispiness.

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

Sweet and Sour Pork

Photo by Getty Images

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound pork tenderloin
  • 2 – 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  • Pinch of cornstarch

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water or reserved pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 4 tablespoons water

Batter:

  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup warm water, as needed

Other:

  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
  • 3 cups oil for deep-frying, or as needed

 

Directions:

  1. Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes. Marinate in the soy sauce and cornstarch for 20 minutes.
  2. To prepare the sauce, in a small bowl, combine the sugar, ketchup, dark soy sauce, salt, water or juice and vinegar. Set aside. In a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water. Set aside.
  3. Peel the carrot and chop on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces. Cut the bell peppers in half, remove the seeds and cut into cubes.
  4. Heat the oil for deep–frying to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. For the batter, combine the flour and cornstarch. Stir in the egg white and vegetable oil. Add as much of the warm water as is needed to form a thick batter that is neither too dry or too moist. (The batter should not be runny, but should drop off the back of a spoon).
  6. Dip the marinated pork cubes in the batter. Deep-fry in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the wok. Deep-fry the pork until it is golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels.
  7. (If desired you can deep-fry the pork at second time to make it extra crispy. Make sure the oil is back up to 375 before you begin deep-frying again).
  8. To prepare the sweet and sour sauce, bring the sauce ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot, green pepper, and pineapple. Bring to a boil again and thicken with cornstarch mixture, stirring. Check the sauce one more time and adjust seasonings, adding salt and/or vinegar if desired. Serve hot over the deep-fried pork.
  9. Serve the sweet and sour pork over rice.

 

 

Happy Chinese New Year!

Western concept of time is linear, meaning time proceeds in a straight line from past, to present, and future, while traditional China uses a 12-year-cycle for dating the years. Each Chinese year corresponds to one of 12 different animals with certain personality traits, and the animal signs (or zodiac) repeat every 12 years in the following order:

  1. Rat: charming, hardworking, thrifty, ambitious
  2. Ox: patient, alert, quiet, stubborn
  3. Tiger: sensitive, sympathetic, indecisive, powerful
  4. Rabbit: articulate, talented, kind, financially lucky
  5. Dragon: healthy, energetic, excitable, brave
  6. Snake: intense, passionate, wise, hates to fail
  7. Horse: popular, cheerful, perceptive, independent
  8. Ram: elegant, creative, shy, pessimistic
  9. Monkey: clever, flexible, inventive, sensible
  10. Rooster: busy, eccentric, deep thinker, loner
  11. Dog: loyal, honest, good leader, secret keeper
  12. Pig: chivalrous, determined, studious, problem solver

Legend has it that the 12 animals argued who would be first, so the gods called for a swimming contest.  All 12 animals fathered at a river bank and jumped in, but the rat shrewdly hopped on the ox’s back.  Although the ox reached the opposite shore first, the rat leaped onto land and won the race before the ox climbed out of the water.

Proper Chinese culture frowns upon asking people’s ages directly, but knowing their zodiac sign is a polite way of estimating (within 12 years) how old they are.  Using common sense, one could determine that the new neighbor is 73 years old rather than 61 or 85.

Visit this website for a birth year/animal sign chart… just click HERE.

Happy Chinese New Year!

2014 is the Year of the Horse according to Chinese zodiac. The Year of the Horse starts from Jan. 31, 2014 (the Lunar New Year / Spring Festival of China) and lasts to Feb. 18, 2015.

The spirit of the horse is recognized to be the Chinese people’s ethos – making unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. Ancient people liked to designate an able person as ‘Qianli Ma’, a horse that covers a thousand li a day (one li equals 500 meters).

Strengths
People born in the year of the horse have ingenious communicating techniques and in their community they always want to be in the limelight. They are clever, kind to others, and like to join in a venture career. Although they sometimes talk too much, they are cheerful, perceptive, talented, earthy but stubborn. They like entertainment and large crowds. They are popular among friends, active at work and refuse to be reconciled to failure, although their endeavor cannot last indefinitely.

 

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Weaknesses
They cannot bear too much constraint. However their interest may be only superficial and lacking real substance. They are usually impatient and hot blooded about everything other than their daily work. They are independent and rarely listen to advice. Failure may result in pessimism. They usually have strong endurance but with bad temper. Flamboyant by nature, they are wasteful since they are not good with matters of finance due to a lack of budgetary efficiency. Some of those who are born in the horse like to move in glamorous circles while pursuing high profile careers. They tend to interfere in many things and frequently fail to finish projects of their own.

Click here to find your Chinese Zodiac.