A very important Chinese holiday is taking place in February. It is called Chinese New Year. Some people refer to the Chinese New Year as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. Many new year celebrations, festivals, and traditions take place during this fun and lucky holiday. Learn all about this fun holiday with these Chinese New Year fun facts for kids.
What is the Chinese New Year / Lunar New Year?
Chinese New Year is a festival that celebrates the start of the new year on the Chinese calendar. It begins at the start of the second new moon after the winter solstice and lasts 15 days. Since it begins at the start of the second moon it is not held on the same day each year. In 2021 it will start on February 12th.
Chinese New Year has been celebrated for over 4,000 years. It started from ancient celebrations that celebrated the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. It also orginates from the story of Nian. Nian was said to be a monster that looed kind of like a lion. It was believed that Nian would go into the Chinese Villages and scare the people that lived there. One year a monk told the people living in the village to make loud noises and hand red cut outs over their doors to scare Nian. The villagers listened to the monk and did what he said and it worked. The villagers were able to defeat Nian. That year was the first new year.
Chinese New Year symbolizes letting go of the past and welcoming a new beginning. It has also been called the Lunar New Year, Spring Festival, or the First Day of the Great Year.
In the U.S and other Western Nations, we celebrate New Years’ on January 1st every year. The Chinese New Year is different every year because it falls on the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar. The celebrations end on the first day with a full moon (15 days later).
What is the Lunar Calendar?
The lunar calendar is a calendar based on the phases of the moon. The Chinese calendar runs about one month behind the traditional US calendar and has between 30-50 more days in the year. In 1912 China changed the calendar to the Gregorian calendar that is used in the U.S and most other places in the world. The Chinese Zodiac Calendar has a 12-year cycle. Each new year is named after an animal from the Chinese zodiac. The animals in order are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. 2021 marks the year of the Ox.
How is Chinese New Year Celebrated?
Chinese New Year is often celebrated with festivals, spending time with relatives, fireworks, and other festivities. In China, children are off from school during the Chinese New Year. Many businesses are closed so that people can celebrate with family and friends.
Food is an important part of the Chinese New Year. People often start cooking food one week before the start of the new year celebrations. This is because it is considered to be back luck to use a knife during Chinese New Year. People also do not cut or use fire on the first day of the new year.
On New Year’s Ever it is a tradition to have a reunion dinner with relatives.
Some foods that are made during Chinese New Year are Jiu Niang Tang – a sweet wine rice soup, Song Gao – loose cake, made of rice, Tang Yuan- black sesame rice ball soup. Yusheng is a fish salad dish that is usually served on the 7th day of Chinese New Year. It is served in a big dish and sits in the middle of the table. Family and friends will all eat from the same dish. It is a symbol of wealth and longenitivy. Chicken, duck, and fish dises are also popular. Dumplings are also served at many festivals. Dumplings are little rice flour balls filled with vegetables.
Many people eat fish during Chinese New Year. Fish is a symbol of good luck, wealth, and healthy life. Mandarin oranges, tangerines, peach blossoms, dried fruits, and sweet foods are considered lucky foods. Small candy boxes and round biscuits that symbolize gold and fortune are also served. Long noodles symbolize good fortune and a long good life.
You will see many bright colors during Chinese New Year. Bright colors especially red are a sign of good luck. People decorate their homes with mandarin trees for good luck. People also decorate with red and white cut out paper decorations. They symbolize happiness, good fortune, longevity, and wealth.
Children often receive shiny red envelopes of money from relatives called hong bao in Mandarin. The money in the envelope is always an even number amount and cannot be divided evenly by the number 4. This is because the Chinese believe that the number 4 is associated with death.
Why do people get red envelopes for the lunar new year? The tradition of giving red envelopes dates back centuries. Legend says that a demon named Sui terrorized children as they slept on new year’s eve. To protect their children parents would try to keep them awake. They would often give children things to play with to keep them entertained. One year a parent gave their child eight gold coins to play with. The child played with them for a while but they fell asleep with the coins on their pillow. The demon Sui appeared that night but the light reflecting from the coins kept the demon away from the child. The red envelope symbolizes the coins. Sometimes they are called yasui qian or suppressing sui money.
Lunar New Year Red Envelope Fun Facts
Envelopes are not only given to children but also to friends, family members and employees.
It is custom to put new bills into the envelopes. Many people will take their old, crumpled bills to the bank and trade them for new ones.
Red envelopes are given and received with both hands.
You are never to open the envelope in front of the person who gave it to you.
The amount of money in the envelope never has to do with the number four. It will not start with a 4 end in a 4 or be divisible by 4. The number 4 is associated with death. It is custom to give an amount that has the number 8. 8 is for good luck and prosperity.
Firecrackers are often let off during Chinese New Year. It is believed that the firecrackers scare away any evil spirits.
On the 5th day of the Chinese New Year is Jie Cai Geng- Welcoming the Gods of Wealth and Prosperity. It is believed on this day the Gods of Wealth and Prosperity come down from heaven. During Jie Cai Geng some business owners set off fireworks to bring their business good fortune.
People will often dress in red for festivities. Some people will even buy new clothes as a symbol of a new beginning. It is custom to wear new clothes on the first day of the Lunar New Year. It is also common to wear new pajamas on new year’s eve.
New Year Dragon
Dragons are also an important part of Chinese New Year celebrations. Some Chinese believe that they are descendants (ancestors) of the dragon.
The dragon is a sign of good luck and good fortune. During Chinese New Year there are many dragon and lion costumes, dragon dance and lion dances, and other performances with dragons and lions. It is believed that the loud sounds of the drums and clashing of cymbals chase away bad luck.
Yuan Xiao Jie/ The Lantern Festival
The last day of the Chinese New Year (the 15th day) is called the Festival of Lanterns or Yuan Xiao Jie. On Yuan Xiao Jie it is a tradition to walk the streets holding red
lanterns to light the way for the new year.
During Yuan Xiao Jie you will see many different kinds of lanterns. Often you will see rabbit lanterns. The rabbit lanterns represent the rabbit from the Chinese myth about the goddess Chang E. The myth talks about how Chang E jumped on the moon but didn’t go alone, she brought a rabbit with her. It is believed that if your heart is pure you will be able to see Chang E and her rabbit on the moon that night.
Chinese New Year Facts
Happy New Year in Mandarin is – Gong Xi Fa Cai
Kung Hei Fat Choy is a popular greeting and means We hope you get rich!
On the first day of the new year scissors and brooms are put away. They believe that cutting is bad luck and that brooms will sweep the good luck away. A good house cleaning is done right before the holiday.
The time before the Lunar New Year is called chunyun. It is the busiest travel time in China. Friends and family from all across the country travel to see loved ones and attend festivities.
It is considered bad luck to cut or wash your hair on the first day of the new year.
It is custom not to do laundry on the new year. As washing clothes can wash away good luck and wealth.
People wear bright colors such as reds, oranges and yellows. People stay away from wearing whites, blacks or dark blues.
Gifts are given in pairs. It is custom not to give gifts in uneven numbers.
In China it is believed that people who cry or whine will result in a sad year. It is looked down on to be upset or angry at the start of the new year.
Chinese New Year celebrations are also celebrated in Chinatown of some U.S cities including San Francisco in California, Chicago in Illinois, and New York City in New York.