With a new year just around the corner, you may be wondering how your friends in China are getting ready to celebrate. In all likelihood, however, they’re not. It’s a little too early for them. Keep on reading to learn a bit about Chinese New Year!
The next Chinese New Year celebration won’t take place until mid-February of 2018 and, in fact, it will be held on different dates in 2019, 2020, and each year thereafter.
Chinese New Year is not based on the Gregorian calendar with which (most) Westerners are familiar. Chinese calendar years correspond roughly to Gregorian calendar years, with each year roughly corresponding to a lap around the sun. The months, however, are determined by the moon, with each month corresponding to a full cycle of the moon. While the Gregorian calendar is corrected by adding a leap day, the Chinese lunar calendar is corrected by adding a leap month! Because of these factors, Chinese New Year can fall anytime between the end of January and the middle of February each year.
It might seem strange, but if you’re looking at it from the perspective of the Chinese lunar calendar instead, it’s the Western New Year celebration that changes dates each year!
If you’re like most Westerners, you look forward to a day off of work or school to relax (and perhaps recover) after a night of festivities.
The Chinese have a slightly different approach.
First, they don’t take a day off. They may take anywhere from a week to a month off! Family owned businesses, even in booming downtown areas, may remain vacant for extended periods of time around Chinese New Year.
If you’re feeling jealous while picturing mobs of Chinese people partying like it’s Western New Year’s Eve for weeks on end, however, your envy is misplaced.
Chinese New Year is a time for family, and that means traveling to meet family who may be in very remote towns, villages, and rural areas. When costs are a concern, it is quite common to take trains for as long as a full day to travel back to one’s hometown.
The days leading up to Chinese New Year are packed with traditional activities and observances, ranging from cleaning to preparing special foods to staying indoors, among others.
Chinese New Year’s Eve is much closer to American Thanksgiving than it is to Western New Year’s Eve. Families gather round and enjoy a long and hearty meal. Afterward, however, unlike either of these Western holidays, Chinese people will often make jiaozi, Chinese dumplings, which they will eat around midnight.
Besides these, red clothing, open-air markets, and fireworks abound this time of year.
The best part of Chinese New Year, however, is “Hong Bao”.
“Hong bao”, or red envelopes, are special little red packages containing money. Giving out hong bao to friends and relatives during Chinese New Year is a great way to show your affection. As an added bonus, you don’t ever need to worry about getting the “right” gift – just make sure you don’t stuff your envelopes with an unlucky amount! To learn about that, though, you’re going to have to tune in another time.
Whenever and however you choose to celebrate, here’s to a happy new year!