The Chinese calendar is different from the one used in the UK. It is made up of a cycle of twelve years, and each of them is named after an animal: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

The festival date changes every year because it follows the lunar calendar which is based on the movement of the moon. It usually falls on a day between mid-January and mid-February. In 2019, Chinese New Year falls on Tuesday 5th February, beginning a year of the Pig.

Year of the Pig

The Pig is the twelfth of all the zodiac animals. In Chinese culture, pigs are the symbol of wealth. Their chubby faces and big ears are signs of good fortune as well. People who are born in the year of the Pig are said to have a beautiful personality and are blessed with good luck in life.

Recent years of the Pig are: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

Celebrating Chinese New Year

Traditionally, celebrations last for fifteen days, ending on the date of the full moon, when it is at its brightest. The first week is celebrated with visits to friends and family, enjoying special traditions that are designed to bring good luck. For example, on Spring Festival Eve, people set off fireworks and firecrackers, hoping to cast away bad luck and bring good fortune. Fish dumplings, rice cakes and fruits are served at the New Year’s meal as they represent wealth and prosperity.

The second week ends with the Lantern Festival which is when people go out to look at the moon, send up flying lanterns, have a meal and enjoy time together in parks and natural areas.

In China, the public holiday lasts for three days and this is the biggest and most extravagant celebration of the year. One sixth of the world’s people celebrate Chinese New Year. As well as Mainland China, it’s also observed in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore and some other Asian countries as well as Chinatowns around the world.

The celebration decorations are mostly in red. This is because in Chinese culture red is the symbol of happiness, wealth and prosperity, and can ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. Houses and city streets are decorated with red lanterns and red paper cuttings and people dress in red.

As part of the celebration, children are given red envelopes containing money. The amount they receive is usually an even number, but it cannot be divisible by four. In Chinese, the number 4 means death. 

Top 10 taboos

Chinese people believe that, as the Spring Festival is the start of a new year, what you do then will affect your luck in the coming year. There are many things you should not do.

1. Do not say negative words

All words with negative connotations are forbidden as you may jinx yourself or bring misfortunes onto you and your loved ones.

2. Do not break ceramics or glass

Breaking things will break your connection to prosperity and fortune. If a plate or bowl is dropped, you must immediately wrap it with red paper while murmuring auspicious phrases.

3. Do not clean or sweep

Before the Spring Festival, there is a day of cleaning. This is to sweep away the bad luck but during the celebration, it becomes a taboo.

4. Do not use scissors, knives or other sharp objects

Sharp objects are thought to cut your stream of wealth and success which is why most hair salons are closed during the holidays.

5. Do not visit the wife’s family

Traditionally, the wife moves into the groom’s home after marriage. Returning to her parents on New Year’s Day means that there are marriage problems and may bring bad luck to the entire family.

6. Do not demand debt repayment

This custom is a show of understanding. It allows everyone a chance to celebrate without having to worry.

7. Avoid fighting and crying

Unless there is a special circumstance, try not to cry. This is to ensure a smooth path in the new year.

8. Avoid taking medicine

Unless you are chronically ill or contract a sudden serious disease, try not to take medicine during the Spring Festival to avoid being sick the entire year.

9. Do not give New Year blessings to someone still in bed

Before you give a New Year blessing, allow the recipient to get out of bed. Otherwise, they’ll be bed-ridden for the entire year.

10. Chinese gift-giving taboos

You should bring gifts when paying visits, but some gifts such as clocks are forbidden.

Greetings and blessing for the New Year

There are multiple blessings and greetings for Chinese New Year with many variations even for the most basic “Happy New Year!” One of the simplest is Happy New Year: 新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè).