All About Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year 2018 begins on February 16th. It marks the end of the Year of the Rooster and the beginning of the Year of the Dog. The Chinese zodiac animal signs follow a twelve year cycle beginning with the rat and ending with the pig.

Animal Sign (Defining Trait) Years
Rat (Wisdom) 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
Ox (Industriousness) 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
Tiger (Valor) 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
Rabbit (Caution) 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
Dragon (Strength) 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
Snake (Flexibility) 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Horse (Fearlessness) 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Sheep/Goat (Unity) 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
Monkey (Changeability) 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Rooster (Consistency) 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
Dog (Fidelity) 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
Pig (Amiability) 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

The origin of these twelve symbols are conveyed through many folk tales, but the most famous is “The Great Race.” Animals from all over China gathered by the Jade Emperor for a race to determine the order of the zodiac cycle. The first twelve finishers would each get their own year. The cat and the rat decided to ride the ox across the river near the end of the race, but the rat betrays the cat by knocking the cat off the ox and into the river. The ox and rat emerged from the river first and the rat quickly scurried across the finish line, claiming first place. The ox finished a close second followed by the tiger, rabbit, dragon, and so on. To this day, the cat holds a grudge against the rat, hunting it at every opportunity.

The Fifteen Days of Chinese New Year

The Lunar New Year celebration starting on a new moon and ending of a full moon fifteen days later. Each of the fifteen days is dedicated to a specific tradition culminating in the Lantern Festival on the night of the first full moon of the year.

Day One-

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, the eldest members of the family are visited in a tradition known as 拜年. This is done to pay respect and strengthen family ties. Lion and dragon dances are performed in the streets as the entire community rings in the new year.

Day Two-

The second day acts as a day to appreciate family. They will usually leave their families to visit and pay respects to their birth parents. Additionally, many will pray to their ancestors along with the traditional gods.

Days Three and Four-

Two days are dedicated to remembering recently deceased family members. Evil spirits are believed to roam the earth these two days and any and all unnecessary time outdoors is avoided.

Day Five-

Many businesses reopen on the fifth day after being closed the first four. However, many still do not leave their homes as they believe the god of wealth may pay a visit.

Day Six-

The sixth day is used to visit houses of worship, family and friends.

Day Seven-

On the seventh day, some people will eat raw fish for increased prosperity as 鱼生 (raw fish) is a homophone for 余升 (an increase in abundance).

Day Eight-

On the night of the eighth day, a family reunion dinner is held to once again strengthen family ties and pay tribute to the Jade Emperor.

Day Nine-

The ninth day is celebrated as the birthday of the Jade Emperor, a predominant figure in ideology. Revered as the Creator of the Universe and the Ruler of all Heavens, the Jade Emperor is the subject of prayer and praise.

Days Ten, Eleven, and Twelve-

Three more days are dedicated to meeting with family and friends.

Day Thirteen-

A vegetarian diet is adopted on the thirteenth day to cleanse the body of the heavy foods eaten in the past two weeks.

Day Fourteen-

On the fourteenth day, homes and streets will be decorated in preparation for the Lantern Festival.

Day Fifteen-

The fifteenth day of the new year marks the first full moon. In a night of fun and festivities, yet another reunion dinner is held where families share delicious treats such as 汤圆, boiled balls of glutinous rice flour. Lanterns are displayed and the festival is meant to guide evil spirits home. Each year, the relationship between people, nature, and the higher beings is thought to bring bright lights back each and every year.

Sources:

https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/

https://blog.pachamama.org/chinese-new-years-blog

http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/Chinese_Customs/chinese-new-year-festivities.htm

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