The Lunar New Year holiday, also widely known as Chinese New Year, is an important festival, traditionally a time of celebration, food and family reunion.
The holiday is tied to the lunar calendar and starts with the new moon between the end of January and the end of February. This year the holiday begins on February 11th (New Years Eve), New Years Day is on February 12th and the holiday lasts around 15 days, until the full moon on February 26th.
The Animal Zodiac – A year of strength & determination
With a new year, comes a new zodiac sign in the Lunar calendar, these are different to the signs we are used to in the West and all take the form of an animal, with each new year marked by the characteristics of one of the 12 zodiac animals; the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The cycle of twelve signs follow the apparent path of the sun through the cosmos. This year, 2021 brings the year of the Ox. The Ox is said to be an animal that symbolises strength and determination, just what we need right now to keep us going through these challenging times!
What animal sign are you? You can find out here and let us know in the comments how you are celebrating the Spring Festival this year and if any of the characteristics resonate with you!
Traditions for Lunar New Year
Travel home for family reunions - Billions of people would normally travel both within China and Worldwide to be reunited with family. This year, like last year the travel plans of the majority of people who would normally make traditional trips home to see friends and family has been disrupted by Covid-19. Like most of this year, technology will be connecting people as much as possible to help them to stay connected and celebrate.
House cleaning in preparation for the holiday - Houses are thoroughly cleaned to rid them of “huiqi,” or inauspicious breaths, which might have collected during the old year. Cleaning is also meant to appease the gods who would be coming down from heaven to make inspections.
Food - With the pandemic limiting the usual lavish, multigenerational New Years Eve dinner and a fortnight of feasting with friends will be impossible, there is one traditional dish that is still very much suited and can be enjoyed on a smaller scale, the Dumplings or (Jiao-Zi) is a classic and comforting dish of rolled noodle dough filled with meat, seafood or vegetables as they symbolise golden ingots.
Shou Sui - "Guard age" – Following the traditional feast, families stay awake through the night and have fireworks at midnight to banish evil. It is believed that the longer you stay up, the longer your parents will live!
Red - The colour and the envelopes. The tradition of giving red envelopes with money inside at Lunar New Year is done to encourage prosperity over the year ahead. Red, in Chinese culture heritage it symbolises luck and happiness and is the shade of the festival itself.
Traditional greeting for Lunar New Year
Not sure how to wish someone a Happy Lunar New Year? Here are some of the common phrases and how to pronounce them
Gong hei fat choy (Cantonese)
Gong xi fa cai (Mandarin) pronounced Gong she fa tsai
This is the most common Lunar New Year greeting and directly translates to “wishing you great happiness and prosperity”
Other ways to wish someone a Happy Lunar New Year in Mandarin:
Xin nian kuai le (pronounced shin nee-an kwai le) – a formal greeting for strangers and means “New Year happiness.”
Xin nian hao (pronounced shin nee-an how) – a shortened, more informal phrase often used for friends and family.
Will you be celebrating this year, or do you have friends and family that will be? Let us know in the comments below. Wǒ wishes everyone happiness and prosperity for the 2021 year of the Ox!