Fast (and fun) facts about Chinese New Year
- Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar and the date changes every year. This year, it falls on February 16.
- The dog represents wealth and royalty, according to Toronto’s Chinatown BIA. “Chinese have a traditional belief that dogs can predict when good or bad things are happening.”
- Each Chinese New Year is represented by one of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac cycle. There are several versions of how this came about. According to one Chinese legend, Buddha asked all animals to help protect each year and the following responded to his call: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram/sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig/boar.
- What animal are you? Some believe that people exhibit the personality traits of the animal in the year they were born.
- Also known as Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, it lasts for 15 days, culminating in a lantern festival.
- The Lantern Festival also marks the first full moon of the new lunar year.
- The Lunar New Year is a time for family reunions. It is also a time to honour deceased ancestors. Families often offer food and paper icons to appease both gods and ancestors.
- The highlight of the Lantern Festival is the dragon dance.
- One sixth of the world’s people celebrate it. (One fourth according to China highlights). To further popularize it, “Happy Chinese New Year” celebrations have been launched by the Chinese Ministry of Culture in 400 cities across 129 countries, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency.
- Colour it red: People wear red and houses and public squares are festooned with red lanterns during the festival. In Chinese culture, red symbolizes happiness and prosperity. It is also believed to ward off evil spirits.
- The young (and these days, the not so young) receive red envelopes (called hong bao or lai see) which contain “lucky money,” which are in denominations of 8. Eight is the luckiest number in Chinese culture.
- Canada adds a “joyful touch” to this year’s Lunar New Year Greetings with domestic stamps featuring a dog.
- Superstitions abound in the lead up to the festival. Here’s one: Don’t clean or sweep on Chinese New Year’s Day or else you will be sweeping away good luck.
- On the move. About 200 million Mainland Chinese travel long distances during Chinese new year, according to history.com. “It is estimated that there are 3.5 billion journeys in China. For comparison, less than 100 million people travel more than 50 miles during the Christmas holidays in the US according to the American Automobile Association.” The massive rush, according to China Highlights, lasts for 40 days.
- Since 2000, Lunar New Year has been designated a weeklong public holiday China.
- A growing number of Chinese are choosing to celebrate the Lunar New Year by travelling overseas, according to Xinhua. About 6 million traveled during the “Golden Week,” with the U.S. as the top destination, followed by the U.K. , Spain, Germany and Switzerland.
- Canada Post has issued a domestic stamp featuring a dog to add a “joyful touch” to Lunar New Year greetings.
Sources: chinahighlights.com, history.com, Travel China Guide, Canada Post, Toronto Chinatown BIA