Billions of people around the world have started their Chinese New Year celebrations.
Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year, is the festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional lunisolar and solar Chinese calendar, in China and other East and Southeast Asian countries.
Lunar New Year 2022 started today, Tuesday 1 February and will last sixteen days. The Lunar New Year is known as the Spring Festival or Chūnjié in Mandarin, while Koreans call it Seollal and Vietnamese refer to it as Tết.
The holiday began as a time for feasting and to honour household and heavenly deities, as well as ancestors.
The New Year typically begins with the first new moon that occurs between the end of January and spans the first 15 days of the first month of the lunar calendar—until the full moon arrives.
Every new year introduces another animal from the Chinese zodiac and its attributes.
This system is believed to have come about in a period during which animal worship was widely practised in China. The zodiac system has been going for an estimated 2,000 years and remains central to Chinese culture.
The 12 zodiac animals are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. In addition to the animals, five elements of earth, water, fire, wood, and metal are also mapped onto the traditional lunar calendar. Each year is associated with an animal that corresponds to an element.
This year will be the year of the water tiger, last seen in 1962, meaning people born this year will share the Tiger’s characteristics. According to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), people born in the Year of the Tiger are born leaders, who walk and talk assertively and inspire respect.
The V&A also say people born in the year of the Tiger are courageous and energetic, love a challenge or competition and are prepared to take risks. They are hungry for excitement and crave attention. They can also be rebellious, short-tempered, and outspoken, preferring to give orders rather than take them, which often leads to conflict.
Other Tiger years include: 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, and 2010.
There are four main elements of Chinese New Year festivities:
- Little Year: takes place one week before Chinese New Year and is a day of memorial and prayer
- New Year’s Eve: a day of reunions and gift-giving
- Spring Festival (11 days long): a festival of family activities, prayers and feasting
- Lantern Festival (5 days long): celebrates family reunions and society and includes the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day. Chinese people mark the event by making lanterns and lighting them
Each day during this period involves different activities and sees different food and drink items consumed. Dumplings, long-life noodles, a whole fish, spring rolls, oranges, and a whole chicken are traditionally eaten during the two-week festivities.
Millions of people in China normally travel across the country in the lead up to the new year as they go to spend time with family.
Usually, before the festivities begin, people clean their homes thoroughly to make them ready for the celebrations.
In China, schools and businesses can close for the first few days of the new year, so that everyone can spend time with their families. There are typically parades and performances, with people dressed in traditional clothes.
Fireworks are also set off because it is thought that noise and lights will scare away any evil spirits for the coming months. Adults also give red envelopes to children with money inside, too.