With its food, acrobatic parades and fireworks, Chinese New Year is a fantastic time to sample China’s culture
Chinese New Year is kicking off in just a few weeks time (image: Shutterstock)
The celebration is a major event, not just in China and South East Asia more generally, but around the world – including in London.
Marking the beginning of another lunar year, the event is a time of food, acrobatic parades and fireworks – and is also a great opportunity to sample the delights of Chinese culture.
So what date will Chinese New Year 2022 fall on, what animal will this year be – and what activities traditionally take place during the celebration?
Here’s what you need to know.
When is Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year will take place on Tuesday 1 February 2022.
The previous lunar year has been running since 12 February 2021 and draws to a close on Monday 31 January 2022.
Timings differ from when we mark the new year here in the UK because China traditionally follows the lunar calendar, whereas we follow a solar one.
Solar calendars are based on the earth’s passage around the sun and are in common and legal usage around the world.
The lunar calendar bases its timings off the different phases of the moon.
It means months tend to be either 29 or 30 days in length, while years are between 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar calendar.
While this calendar might seem a foreign concept, most cultures around the world have used lunar calendars at some point in their history.
Even the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced in Europe almost 450 years ago, has its origins in the lunar cycle.
What animal will it be?
Every new year marks the introduction of another new animal from the Chinese zodiac and its attributes.
This system is believed to have been installed during a period in which animal worship was practiced in China.
It’s been going for 2,000 years and remains central to Chinese culture, with people using it to determine their fortune for the year and even who they should marry.
There are 12 animals in all: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
2022 will be the year of the tiger.
It means people born this year will share the tiger’s characteristics.
- Vigor and ambition
- Daring and courage
- Enthusiasm and generosity
- A sense of justice and a commitment to help others for the greater good
How is Chinese New Year marked?
In China, there are four main elements of 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 also 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.
For example, on the first day of Chinese New Year, firecrackers are set off and people look at their fortunes for the year ahead.
Typical food items include spring rolls, dumplings, noodles, steamed fish or chicken and rice cakes.
Chinese New Year is also marked all over the world.
Celebrations take place in towns and cities across the UK but the centre of festivities is in Chinatown in London’s West End, where you can see parades featuring traditional Chinese lions and tigers.
Trafalgar Square also tends to host a celebration involving a screen show, speeches, traditional food and drink as well as firecrackers.
However, due to the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, it remains unclear whether or not these events will take place.
How to say happy new year in Chinese
There are two major languages in China, Mandarin (largely spoken on the mainland) and Cantonese (mostly spoken in Hong Kong).
Both languages use three different phrases for wishing someone a happy new year.
- ‘Xīnnián hǎo’ which directly translates as ‘New Year goodness’
Mandarin: 新年好 or “sshin-nyen haoww”
Cantonese: 新年好 or “sen-nin haow”
- ‘Gōngxǐ fācái’ which means ‘happiness and prosperity’ in English
Mandarin: 恭喜发财 or “gong-sshee faa-tseye”
Cantonese: 恭喜發財 or “gong-hey faa-chwhy”
- ‘Bùbù gāoshēng’ which translates into English as ‘on the up and up’
Mandarin: 步步高升 or “boo-boo gaoww-shnng”
Cantonese: 步步高陞 or “boh-boh goh-sshi”
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