Chinese New Year——15 Facts You Should Know

Chinese New Year 2021 promises to be a very very special New Year celebration for China! The 2020 new year festival was interrupted by the outbreak of coronavirus. China went into a nationwide lockdown of 1.4 billion people and most festivities were curtailed. That’s why this new year of the ‘metal Ox’ 2021 is going to be celebrated and enjoyed with even more enthusiasm than usual! Hoorah!

1. Chinese New Year’s day is 12th Feb 2021

This Chinese new year 2021 is the Year of (the metal) Ox – Will it be a lucky for you according to your Chinese zodiac sign? (If for any reason you don’t set many stores in Chinese astrology you’ll find plenty of useful information here on other traditional Chinese ‘good-luck’ traditions and a pottted guide to Feng Shui!

2.Chinese New Year is the longest festival celebrated in China, the festivities go on for 15 days!

Why? Chinese New Year day is the first day of the first lunar month, the day of the new moon, and 15 days later, the first full moon day of the new Chinese year. This is also a well-loved traditional Chinese festival called lantern festival; a festival of reunion and also a day that marks the culmination of new year celebrations. Chinese believe the first 15 days of a year are crucial to help welcome, generate and gather all possible good luck to bring good fortune to the house and make the year ahead as fortunate as possible.

Chinese new year celebration dragon dance
Chinese new year celebration dragon dance

3.Why is Chinese New Year not January 1st ?

Well, Chinese New Year is also called ‘chūn jié’; (pronounced: ‘twen jeeyeah’) or Lunar New Year festival. It marks the first day of first lunar month of the traditional Chinese lunar year. You can easily convert Gregorian date to Chinese lunar date to see how the Chinese New Year changes every year.

Below is an illustration of how Chinese lunar days varying according to Gregorian calendar using 2021 Feb as an example.

4. History of Chinese New Year goes back over 4000 years.

Chinese New Year ‘s exact origin is too ancient to be recorded and accompanied with various myths and tales. Naturally, it would have begun much the same as in ancient Britain and Europe before the advent of ‘churches’; ancient Chinese peoples held rituals to celebrate natural cycles, honor gods and ancestors at the beginning of every natural cycle. (Interestingly there is a direct correspondence with ancient British and European lunar cycle festivals)

Xi'an night skyline

Xi’an night skyline

5.Interesting Origin myth of Chinese New Year for kids: The Tale of fighting Monster “Nian——年”.

Cutting a long story short:

“Once upon a time in the ancient far away lands of China, there was a terrible and ferocious beast called: “Nian”. (年, pronounced: ‘Neeyen’) Nian came out from the dark depths of the deep sea to feed on human beings on the last day at midnight every year. Villagers locked their doors before sunset, and prepared a big meal. Families sat together and prayed for the protection of their ancestors’ blessings to survive Nian’s hunt.

Chinese new year origin story

Chinese new year origin story

People found out that Nian was very sensitive in sight and hearing and afraid of any bright red color and loud noise. So this explains why they hang red decorations everywhere and make bamboo firecrackers (later becoming ‘fireworks’) to scare Nian away once and for all. Now you know why Chinese like the color red, and decorate their home using red spring couplets, eat special recipes and festival meals – ‘lucky foods’, especially during Chinese New Year time and why the Chinese have a tradition of setting off lots of fireworks and firecrackers.

Note that there are other versions about the origins of Chinese zodiac animals and the Nian monster stories, and there is no ‘right or wrong’, and they vary in popularity. The tale we offer is one of the most-common and well-loved ‘stories for kids’ in China, and one that makes understating the rest of Chinese New Year facts and rituals easier.

6.Chinese also call the Chinese New Year Festival “Guo Nian”, (过年,pronounced: ‘guwor neeyen) literally means: “Survive Nian”.

7.Each Chinese lunar year has a Chinese Zodiac Animal

But why? Going back to the Chinese New Year origin story of Nian; Each year, there was a brave animal which came to help the people fight against the monster Nian, so every year was dedicated to that animal in honor of its braveness. There were twelve animals in total involved in the battle with monster Nian before it was defeated forever.

The Rat joined the war in first year, then the next year it was the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and finally the pig.

Thus, the 12 zodiac animals became embedded in Chinese astrology, and to this day every year is associated with one of these heroic helpers – 2021 being the year of the Ox.

chinese zodiac animals with the year element from year1960 to 2025

Chinese zodiac animals with the year element from year 1960 to 2025

8.Chinese lunar new year happens around end of Jan or start of Feb on Gregorian calendar every year.

Quite often, Chinese lunar calendar days are about one month after the Gregorian calendar days.

9.Chinese New Year creates the biggest human migration in the world,spring festival travel rush, also called:chūn yùn”.

Chun Yun, (春运,pronounced:’twen yeun’ ) “spring transport”, goes on for around 40 days – before and after Chinese new year, a mammoth travel rush created by the world most populous nation all returning home to reunite with family for China’s biggest annual festival. ‘Xin Nian’ is Chinese for New Year – pronounced ‘shin neeyan’, ‘Xin Nian Kuai le‘ pronounced ‘shin neeyan kwai ler’, means Happy New Year!

Hangzhou East Railway Station

Hangzhou East Railway Station

According to the Chinese government:

  • In 2019 new year Chun Yun, nearly 3 billion trips made.
  • In 2020 new year Chun Yun, a total of 283 million trips were made, clearly, a huge drop – affected by the breakout of novel coronavirus.


  3. State council

10.While Public holidays for Chinese New Year are 7 days. Individual small business owners may take a 15-day festival break.

Almost all main Chinese businesses stop serving during the 7-day public holiday. Banks, stated-owned companies and most common employees will reopen right back after the official public holiday.

Individual business such as some Chinese restaurants and small businesses owners like to enjoy the 15-day gap. This of course is personal choice.

14. Chinese New Year preparation costs more money than you think!

China and the Chinese people always have more need to spend money approaching the Chinese new year period, buying gifts and treats for family and friends, and for themselves! And this is not talking about buying ‘red spring couplets’ and red lanterns for New Year home decoration, that’s the same as Christmas trees and baubles at Christmas time. These are common and normal.

So, what makes Chinese New Year most costly for Chinese people?

  1. Prepare ‘Hong Bao’ (红包) – pronounced hong bow – as in ship’s bow. Red Envelopes filled with cash for kids, not just theirs, but also close relatives. Though nowadays, it’s mostly done via Alipay and WeChat electronic transfer. Did you know China is ALREADY a largely ‘cashless’ society?
  2. Chinese households will stock up enough food, drinks, and feast making materials for 7-15 days. This is completely necessary and essential when most people are going to stay home and feast for half a month while all business closed in this country in the meantime!
  3. If you have and disfunctional devices, broken furniture, cluttered room and blocked drains, you must have them fixed, replaced, and dealt with before the Chinese new year eve and this is considered a beneficial and lucky thing to do and very necessary. Clean and ready your house for the new year’s good fortune!

15. Celebrate Chinese New Year and bring good luck: dos and don’ts!

There are many taboos during Chinese New Year, collecting and not damaging your new year good luck, here is 10 things you should not do during Chinese New Year:

Don’t do laundry, cleaning, and sweeping.

Don’t do Sewing, stitching, patching, or repairing and fixing things.

Learn more about how to celebrate the Chinese new year: list of things you should and should not do!

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