Happy New Year! But wait, wait, didn’t that already happen a month and a half ago?
Well if the American New Year hasn’t been any good to you so far, you can start over today with Chinese New Year! This year it’s the Year of the Pig. But what does this mean? Read on for some fun information about Chinese New Year!
Chinese New Year Calendar
The Chinese calendar operates differently than the American calendar. The calendar we use in the United States is a Gregorian calendar, which is the most often used calendar internationally. The Gregorian calendar is based on the sun and is fairly similar from year to year.
The Chinese calendar is based on both the sun and moon. When compared with the Gregorian calendar, Chinese New Year’s falls on different days from year to year, but it will always take place on the first day of the new moon sometime between January 21st and February 21st. And in the Chinese calendar, every month is marked by the name of an animal, instead of a number, as we do in America.
Chinese New Year is also referred to as Spring Festival and Lunar New Year– all three terms are used interchangeably. The Chinese New Year begins with the new moon on the first day of the first lunar month and ends with the full moon 15 days later, (or the day before the next new moon).
History, Traditions, and Superstitions
The end of the New Year is celebrated with Lantern festival. Lantern Festival has been celebrated for over 2000 years, and lanterns are viewed as symbols of hope for the new year.
There are many traditions and superstitions that are part of Chinese New year. Most of them come from Chinese mythology. It is said that Chinese New Year first came into existence because of the Nian, a mythological demon with a body of a bull and the head of a lion.
The Nian lived under a mountain and at the end of winter around the New Year when food was scarce, he would come to the village to feast on livestock, villagers, crops, and even children.
Eventually, the villagers learned that if they left food on their doorstep and stayed inside, the Nian would leave them alone. They also learned that the Nian was afraid of the color red, and loud noises. This led to the modern influences we see today in Chinese New Year. Even the word for New Year in Chinese has the word “nian” in it. It is written as 新年, which translates to xīn nián, or New Year.
Most decorations for Chinese New Year are the color red, a color believed to be lucky in Chinese culture. Giving money in red envelopes is a common practice today, meant to symbolize good wishes and luck for the new year. Traditional lion dances are performed at many Chinese festivals, and particularly at Chinese New Year festivals, and they are believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune.
Some other Chinese New Year superstitions are;
- Staying up late. Families stay up late to ring in the new year with firecrackers (also meant to scare off the Nian).
- Cleaning your home. This should be done before New Year’s Eve, but not on New Years Day. It is believed that sweeping on New Year’s Day will sweep away good luck.
- Doing laundry and wearing damaged clothes. People do not do laundry on the first and second days of the New Year, to celebrate the birthday of Shuishen, the
Water God. And wearing overly worn or damaged articles of clothing is believed to cause bad luck
- Taking medicine. It is believed if you take medicine on New Year’s Day, you will be sick for the remainder of the year.
- Crying children. Children are kept as happy as possible during the New Year’s Day, as it’s considered to bring bad luck if they cry.
The Year of the Pig and the Chinese Zodiac
In the Chinese zodiac, every 12 years is represented by a different animal. This year is the Year of the Pig, and previous years of the pig have been 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and now, 2019. Therefore, the next Year of the Pig will be in twelve years, in 2031. People’s zodiac signs are assigned based on their year of birth, and certain traits are associated with certain animals. Those born under the Year of the Pig are said to have a beautiful personality and are blessed with good fortune in life.