Chinese New Year: What you need to know

Chinese New Year: What you need to know

By BBC

This week, millions of people will be celebrating Chinese New Year. It will be marked by communities all over the world.

People will eat lots of food, enjoy fireworks, wear special clothes and hang red lanterns to mark the occasion. See how much you know about Chinese New Year with this quiz – and find out which Chinese year YOU were born in here.

When is it?

Chinese New Year will begin on 25 January 2020. The reason the new year falls at this time is because it marks the start of the lunar new year, which is when there is the start of a new moon.

This is different to the ‘Gregorian’ calendar that we traditionally use in the UK, which always starts on 1 January. Because it depends on the moon, the date of Chinese New Year actually changes each year, but it will always fall some time between 21 January and 20 February. Next year, the new year will start on 25 January, so the celebrations will be slightly earlier than they are this year.

What is it?

Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival. It is the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar.

In Chinese tradition, each year is named after one of 12 animals, which feature in the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. So the animals will have a year dedicated to them once every 12 years, in a cycle.


The story of the rat

In Chinese culture, rats were seen as a sign of wealth and surplus

The Rat is the first of all zodiac animals.

According to one myth, the Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party.

The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride.

Then, just as they arrived at the finish line, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox, becoming first.


2018 was the year of the dog, 2019 was the year of the pig and 2020 will be the year of the rat.

The next time it will be the year of the pig again is 2031, 12 years after 2019.

How is it celebrated?

Before the festivities begin, people clean their homes really well to make them ready for the celebrations.

Then, when New Year’s Day comes, there is a tradition not to pick up a broom, in case you sweep the good luck for the New Year out of the door!

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.

People enjoy eating lots of delicious food, including noodle soup, which traditionally brings luck for the year ahead.

There will be 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 might give red envelopes to children with money inside too.

The festivities continue for two weeks, finishing with a special lantern festival, which signals the end of the New Year celebration period.

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