Each year, millions of people across the globe celebrate a unique holiday that is rich in tradition, spectacle and pageantry. The Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is celebrated around the world, even by people who do not trace their heritage back to China.
In China, Chinese New Year marks the end of the coldest days on the calendar and welcomes spring with new beginnings and the start of planting season. This spectacular holiday follows the lunar calendar, so there is no set date for the event. The Lunar New Year begins between January 21 and February 20 each year and lasts about 15 days. In 2020, the celebration begins on Saturday, January 25.
Fireworks are a large part of Chinese New Year festivals. According to Chinese mythology, a monster named ‘Nian’ would come about every New Year’s Eve, forcing people to hide in their homes. A brave boy fought Nian off using fireworks, and the following day the public celebrated their survival by setting off even more pyrotechnics. Fireworks became a key component of celebrations from that point forward.
Some other traditions associated with the holiday include burning fake paper money and printed gold bars in honor of deceased ancestors. It is believed these offerings will bring fortune and good luck to ancestors in the afterlife. Other customs include cleaning homes thoroughly prior to the dawn of the New Year, welcoming family for a big reunion and avoiding activities deemed to be taboo. Such activities may include hair cutting, using scissors and other sharp objects, arguing, saying unlucky words, or breaking things. Children receive money tucked inside of red envelopes to help transfer fortune from elders to younger generations. In addition to red envelopes, homes and decorations are adorned in red. The red color was purported to be instrumental in scaring away Nian and bringing about luck.
Another component of Chinese New Year is the Chinese zodiac. One animal represents the entire year, and there are 12 different animals. The animal a person is born under can help decide his or her career, health and relationship status. 2020 is the year of the Rat. The Rat is associated with wealth and surplus and also is known to be a clever, quick thinker. The Rat is successful, but content to live a peaceful life.
The Chinese believe your ben ming nian, or the year of your zodiac animal, is the unluckiest for you because it is a rebirth year and a time when children can easily be taken by evil spirts. Wearing red all year is a defense against this. Those born in 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, and 2008 are all born under the Rat.
Chinese New Year is a spectacle that Chinese and non-Chinese alike can behold.