|春节 chūn jié
|Lunar New Year, Spring Festival
|All Chinese people; people in some other Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines…
|Sunday, Jan. 22nd, Rabbit
|Saturday, Feb. 10th, Dragon
Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, is the grandest festival in China, with a 7-day long holiday. As the most colorful annual event, the traditional CNY celebration lasts longer, up to two weeks, and the climax arrives around the Lunar New Year's Eve.
China during this period is dominated by iconic red lanterns, loud fireworks, massive banquets and parades, and the festival even triggers exuberant celebrations across the globe.
In 2023 Chinese New Year festival falls on Jan. 22. It is the Year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese zodiac, which features a 12-year cycle with each year represented by a specific animal. People born in the Years of the Rabbit including 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, and 2011 will experience their Zodiac Year of Birth (Ben Ming Nian). 2024 Chinese New Year falls on Feb. 10 and it is the Year of the Dragon.
Time for Family Reunion
When is Chinese New Year?
Unlike the universal New Year observed on January 1st, Chinese New Year is never on a fixed date. The dates vary according to Chinese lunar calendar, but generally fall on a day between January 21st and February 20th in the Gregorian calendar.
How long is the festival? Most people in China have at least seven days off work, including three days' legal holiday, and the preceding and following weekends. Here's a CNY timetable for recent years, marked in UTC/GMT+08:00.
|Jan. 21 - 27
|Feb. 9 - 15
|Jan. 28 - Feb. 3
|Feb.16 - Feb.22
|Feb.5 - Feb.11
Why is it called Spring Festival?
The festival date is in January or February, around the Chinese solar term the 'Beginning of Spring', so it is also named the 'Spring Festival'.
When all streets and lanes are decorated with vibrant red lanterns and colorful lights, the Lunar New Year is approaching. What do Chinese people do then? After half a month's busy time with a house spring-clean and holiday shopping, the festivities kick off on the New Year's Eve, and last 15 days, until the full moon arrives with the Lantern Festival. Scroll down and let's look through the core traditions and practices of the Chinese New Year.
House Cleaning and Decorating – half month before
No matter whether in a city apartment or a countryside villa, there must be a diligent housewife exerting all her energies to carry out a thorough clean of the house before Chinese New Year. Sweeping, mopping, wiping, washing… Sometimes the whole family needs to give a hand with the chores, to make sure the house is rid of the old year's dust and is prepared for taking in the fortune of the New Year. Then every house is decorated with the most favored color, the bright Red – red lanterns
, Chinese knots, Spring Festival couplets
, 'Fu' character pictures, and red window paper-cuts
. Read more about How to Decorate for Chinese New Year
Family Reunion Dinner – New Year's Eve
Home is the principal focus of the Spring Festival. All Chinese people manage to make their way home at the latest by New Year's Eve, for a reunion dinner with the whole family. The essential course on all Chinese menus for a reunion dinner will be a steamed or braised whole fish, representing a surplus every year. Various kinds of meat, vegetable, and seafood are made into dishes with auspicious meanings. Dumplings are indispensable for northerners, while rice cakes for southerners. The night is spent enjoying this feast along with cheerful family talk and laughter. Read more Chinese New Year Foods
Giving Red Envelopes – Best Wishes through Money
From newborn babies to teenagers, luck money will be given by seniors, wrapped in red packets in the hope of dispelling evil spirits from the kids. CNY 100 to 500 notes are commonly sealed in a red envelope, while there are big ones with up to CNY 5,000 especially in the rich southeast regions. Besides a small disposable amount, most of the money is used to buy the kids toys, snacks, clothes, stationery, or saved for their future educational expenditure. Read more about Red Envelope
Send Greetings and Red Envelopes through Wechat
With the popularity of instant messaging apps, greeting cards are seldom seen. From the morning to the midnight of the New Year's Eve, people use the app Wechat to send various text messages, voice messages, and emojis, some of which featuring the New Year's animal sign, to exchange greetings and good wishes. Digital red envelopes are becoming considerably popular and a big red envelope in a group chat always starts a happy grabbing game.
Watching CCTV New Year's Gala – 20:00 to 0:30
It is undeniable that the CCTV New Year's Gala
is China's most watched television special, despite the declining viewership in recent years. The 4.5-hour live broadcast features music, dance, comedy, opera, and acrobatic performances. Although the audience becomes more and more critical of the programs, that never stops people turning on the TV on time. The delightful songs and words act as a habitual background to a reunion dinner, for after all it's been a tradition ever since 1983.
Setting off Firecrackers at 0:00
There is New Year bell on the TV gala at 0:00, but you can hardly hear it since there would be loud bangs of firecrackers
, from 0:00 to 0:30 and even later. Chinese people have by long tradition set off firecrackers, originally to scare away the legendary monster Nian which emerges at midnight. In recent years, many urban areas have a firecracker ban or set special area or period for fireworks, to prevent accidents and threats to air quality.
Half-month Visiting Relatives – from One Family to Another
After a day at home, people start to visit relatives from the second day of the New Year. The married couples go to visit the wife's parents' home on the second day. The following days will be spent in various relatives' houses. For some extended families in rural areas, half a month is barely enough to visit everyone. People bring gifts to one another's homes and give red envelopes to the kids. That's a ritual. Get inspired by more Chinese New Year Gift Ideas
Folk Shows and Temple Fairs – Lasting to 15th day of 1st lunar month
In urban areas, there are bustling temple fairs with religious worship, costume performances, games, and local snacks. Some locations have lantern fairs, offering great night fun. In rural areas, more authentic folk shows are likely to be seen, including the yangko dance and stilt walking in north China and dragon and lion dances prevailing in southern regions. See Best Temple Fairs in Beijing
Further Reading on CNY Traditions:
What to Eat – Priority of the Festival
In China, an old saying goes 'Food is the first important thing for people' while a modern saying '3 pounds' weight gain atevery festival.' Both show the Chinese people's love of food. There probably are no other people quite like the Chinese who are so passionate and fastidious about cooking. Besides basic requirements of appearance, smell, and taste, they insist on creating festival foods bearing auspicious meanings and bring good luck.
New Year Menu from a Chinese Family
– boil or steam
– symbol of fortune for its shape like an ancient Chinese gold ingot.
– steam or braise
– symbol of a surplus in the year end and good luck for the coming year.
Glutinous Rice Balls
– round shape standing for completeness and family reunion.
– both sweet and salty
– appearance like a gold bar and stuff with fresh veg meaning a fresh start.
Travel during Chinese New Year – 5 Things You should Know
1. Prepare for crowds:
The 40 days around the festival is a huge peak travel period, when all migrant workers and students are on their way home, contributing to an amazing volume of 3 billion passengers! Remember: Avoid the Spring Festival Travel Rush
; if unavoidable, keep away from train travel; if you can't, buy tickets as EARLY as possible.
2. Calm down when hearing the firecrackers:
Spectacular pyrotechnics displays will light up the sky and loud bangs traverse the whole country. Don't panic. It has nothing to do with terrorists, but just celebration.
3. Shortened opening hours:
Public transport, banks, and other public service sectors have shorter opening hours during the holiday. Business comes almost to a stop. Many restaurants and shops close for the holiday.
4. Where to go:
Beijing, Xi'an, and Pingyao feature traditional celebrations of north China, Guangzhou retains south China folk customs, while Harbin is a popular January destination for the exciting ice and snow activities. See 5 Best Places to Go for Chinese New Year 2023
5. Weather & Clothing:
– Southmost Hainan: 17 ~ 25°C; long-sleeve T-shirt or thin coat
– Southern areas like Guangdong, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Yunnan: 5 ~ 15°C; sweater + jacket or trench coat
– South and east areas including Shanghai & Hangzhou: 2 ~ 10°C; sweater + light down jacket
– Central China including Xi’an & Chengdu: -3 ~ 8 °C; sweater + thick down jacket
– North destinations around Beijing: -10 ~ 5°C; wool sweater + thick parka or down coat
– Northeast cities like Harbin: -30 ~ -10°C; as thick as possible
How to Say Happy New Year in Chinese
新年好 xīn nián hǎo
过年好 guò nián hǎo
新年快乐 xīn nián kuài lè
3800 Years' History of Chinese New Year
Originating during the Shang Dynasty (17th - 11th century BC), it used to be a ceremony at the beginning of a year to honor ancestors and heavenly deities. 'Year' has been called 'Nian' in Chinese since the Zhou Dynasty (1046 - 256 BC). There was a legend about people fighting against a monster named 'Nian' who was afraid of the color red and loud noises. At the turn of the year, people decorated their houses in red and played with firecrackers to scare it off. Later the turn of the year became an occasion for gathering all family members for feasting, and more food traditions and entertainments are added. Read more about Chinese New Year History
and the Legend of Monster Nian
Chinese New Year Animals – 12 Zodiac Signs
In China, each year is represented by one of the 12 zodiac animals – Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Chinese New Year 2022 is the year of the Tiger. The animal sign is believed to dominate the year and influence the character and destiny of people born in the year. Every Chinese knows his or her own animal sign. Check here
to know which Chinese zodiac animal you are, and the fortune prediction for the New Year.
- Last updated on Dec. 13, 2022 by Cathy He -