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Google 'Chinese New Year' and your screen will light up with fireworks

Laura Hampson
·4-min read
The end of the celebration period is often followed with a lantern festival (Getty)
The end of the celebration period is often followed with a lantern festival (Getty)

With a new moon fast approaching on Friday 12 February, this also signals the start of the Chinese New Year.

Also called the Lunar New Year and the Spring Festival, this year we’re welcoming in the Year of the Ox, the animal which symbolises determination and strength - and it will be more lucky for some than others.

When is Chinese New Year?

This year, Chinese New Year falls on Friday 12 February.

The way it differs to the Gregorian calendar, which marks a new year on 1 January, is that Chinese New Year is determined by the start of a new moon - but it always falls between 21 January and 20 February.

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While celebrations differ across the world, and are expected to be a lot different this year due to various coronavirus restrictions, usually Chinese New Year is spent with family.

There are a slew of traditions to follow as well. Generally homes are cleaned before the celebration and on New Year’s Day brooms aren’t meant to be picked up for worry that luck for the new year could be swept out the door.

In China, schools and businesses often close for a few days so people can spend time with their families and fireworks are set off as it’s thought the noise will scare away evil spirits.

Celebrations generally last for two weeks and usually end with a lantern festival.

Red envelopes containing money are often given as gifts to children (Getty)
Red envelopes containing money are often given as gifts to children (Getty)

What is the animal for Chinese New Year?

There’s a different animal assigned for each year of the 12-year Chinese Zodiac cycle - 2020 was the Year of the Rat and 2021 will be the Year of the Ox.

The Rat is the first of all the Chinese Zodiac animals and is seen as a sign of wealth and surplus.

According to an ancient Chinese folk story, the way the order of the animals was determined was due to the ‘Great Race’ called by the Jade Emperor.

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In the race, 13 animals faced off against one another and the rat, travelling on the back of the ox, leaped off just before the finish line to get first place. A cat was also said to be in the race but it drowned, leading to only 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac.

The year you are born can generally determine which Zodiac animal you were born under - but this can differ for January and February babies. Below is a rough guide:

  • Rat: 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972

  • Ox: 2021, 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973

  • Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962

  • Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963

  • Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964

  • Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965

  • Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966

  • Sheep: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967

  • Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968

  • Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969

  • Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970

  • Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971

What are typical Chinese New Year foods?

Chinese New Year is typically celebrated with a ‘reunion dinner’ which sees families get together after being apart for an extended period.

Chef, Kian Lam Kho tells Oprah Magazine: "The idea of an elaborate reunion dinner is that you have to include all sorts of stuff. You have to have fish, you have to have chicken or duck, or pork. It's to indicate that you're so successful during the year—that you can afford all of this, and carry it over to the new year."

Fish, fruit and dumplings are also symbols of luck and prosperity - so you can expect these to be served over Chinese New Year as well.

Fruit and dumplings are also symbols of luck and prosperity (Getty)
Fruit and dumplings are also symbols of luck and prosperity (Getty)

What are typical Chinese New Year gifts?

The most popular gift to give on Chinese New Year is money gifted in a red envelope. This is generally given to children and unmarried adults.

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This stems from the tradition of using coins to fend off evil spirits.

Clocks, pears and scissors should not be given as gifts - as these all have unfavourable connotations.

Will this Chinese New Year be lucky?

Chinese astrology dictates that the year of your birth sign is generally believed to be one of your most unluckiest.

So for those born in a Year of the Ox - like Barack Obama (1961) and Kylie Jenner (1997) - it may not be a terribly lucky year. However, wearing red and jade accessories is said to help bring some more luck back into your life.

This year is the Year of the Metal Ox, which means it’s a good year for giving birth as metal is known for its stability and longevity.

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