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Chinese Spring Festival 2014

Dates: February 19 (Chinese New Year's Eve) to March 5 (Lantern Festival), 2015; 

seven star park in Guilin in Chinese New YearDecoration of Spring Festival

Spring Festival, widely known as Chinese New Year in the West, is the most important traditional festival in China and a public holiday. Spring Festival 2014 starts on January 30 (Chinese New Year's Eve). 2015 is the year of the goat. In 2014, the Chinese Spring Festival started in February 31. 2014 was the year of horse.

The festival falls on the first day of the first lunar month (always somewhere in the period January 21 to February 20), and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. 

The festival is celebrated grandly across the country with various cultural activities. Firework shows, dragon dancing and lion dancing are the most common Chinese New Year activities. Even days before the festival, Chinese families clean their houses. The practice of house cleaning before the New Year is believed to sweep away bad luck and bring good fortune in the coming year.

Chinese New Year is a time for families to be together. Wherever they are, people come home to celebrate the festival with their families. The busiest travel time in China happens during this period. Travelers who plan to visit China during the New Year time are recommended to book everything in advance.

History

Chinese Spring Festival red envelopRed envelopes of Spring Festival

The Spring Festival has a history of more than 4,000 years. It is said that the custom of Spring Festival originated from belief in deities. When the solar terms changed, dictating farming activities, especially at the end of a year, people would sacrifice to the deities and pray for good harvests.

Nian (年 'year') was not a word for describing time originally. It was used to describe the cycle of crop cultivation until the Xia Dynasty (2070–1600 BC).

The beginning of a year changed during different dynasties until the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD). For example, people in the Xia Dynasty celebrated New Year’s Day in the first lunar month of a year, while people in the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC) celebrated New Year’s Day in the tenth lunar month.

The exact celebration period of Spring Festival was fixed in 104 BC and was given the name suishou (a.k.a. nian, the beginning of the year), when China was ruled by Emperor Wudi (156–87 BC), and the lunisolar calendar was promulgated. The calendar made the beginning of a year and the 24 solar terms coincident. So, in ancient China, the first day of the lunisolar year was called yuandan (元旦, 'first dawn').

On January 1, 1912, the Republic of China introduced the Gregorian calendar, and named January 1 yuandan. The traditional New Year’s Day was given another name — Chun Jie (春节 'Spring Festival').

The Chinese New Year Legend and Traditional Customs

Writing couplets for Spring Festival

According to traditional customs, people stay up late or all night with the lights on during Spring Festival’s Eve, and will set off firecrackers as soon as the first second of New Year’s Day comes. There is an interesting legend for the origin of the custom.

Almost every traditional Chinese festival has its own legend, including Spring Festival. In traditional Chinese culture the Spring Festival is also named guonian (过年 'passing a year').

The legend is related to a fierce monster called Nian (年) which ate an animal a day cruelly, sometimes a human being. People's faces turned pale at the mention of the monster. Nian appeared in human society every 365 days after dark, and when dawn came, it went back to a wooded mountain. People found that it was very scared of the color red, light, and loud sounds.

So, since then, people use red Spring Festival couplets, lights, and firecrackers to drive away the monster every Spring Festival’s Eve.

Chinese New Year FAQs

Is it possible to travel in China during Chinese New Year?

Travel to China is possible over Chinese New Year as long as you are well-prepared. Be prepared to see big crowds in the streets, restaurants, trains and train stations. Travel bookings, especially for trains, are extremely tight, and hotels generally increase their rates. Read details on Chinese Spring Festival travel (Chunyun)

Will everything be closed over Chinese New Year?

Tourist-related enterprises open as usual, even though government buildings and offices are closed during the New Year holiday. Restaurants, tourist attractions, hotels, airports, and departments stores will be open and ready for more customers.

What is the weather like during the New Year Festival?

China's New Year Festival takes place in the late January to late February period, which is the coldest time in China. North China is a frozen expanse with the average temperature below 0°C (32°F). Take Beijing and Harbin for example. In Beijing the temperature sometimes plummets to -10°C (14°F) during the New Year. It is even colder in Harbin with the lowest temperatures below -20°C (-4°F). Snowy and icy weather is common. 

South China is warmer than the north, but it isn’t warm at all in the real sense. Winter in the Yangtze region (Nanjing, Shanghai, and Wuhan) is cold, sometimes frozen, and windy. Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are comfortable in winter. Wintering in southern Yunnan province is enjoyable, but a big difference occurs in temperature between day and night.

Do I need to bring some small gifts for my guide during the New Year? If so what are the best options?

Gifts from tourists to tour guides are not expected. But your tour guides will appreciate it if you do bring a surprise for them. A pair of warm gloves, a warm scarf, or a box of candies are recommended.

In terms of lucky money, how much should I give and how should I give it?

The amount of lucky money varies according to the recipient and the relations between the giver and the recipient. Bosses gifts to employees and parents gifts to children usually range from 200 to 500 or even more. The money is put in a red envelope. Parents usually give the lucky money to their children on the first day of Chinese New Year. Bosses give the lucky money to their employees on the first working day of the New Year.

A Practical Day-by-Day Guide to Chinese Spring Festival 2014

If you are traveling in China during 2014’s Chinese New Year period, the following table might be useful to you. Several travel pointers are listed, such as when the traffic is most crowded, when the traffic improves, when there will be lots of fireworks, whether the banks and government offices are open in this period, when shops will re-open, greetings and customs, etc. Read more Best places to visit during the Chinese New Year

Every year, the Spring Festival travel rush peaks just before Chinese New Year. The Spring Festival travel rush of 2014 is expected to begin around January 15, and last till around February 23. However, there is a short period: January 30 – February 2 (the eve and first three days of Chinese New Year), when transport is much less busy than other days during the Chinese New Year period.

DateTransport

January 15 to 30
Homeward Bound
Cleaning

Tens of millions of migrant workers and college students rush home for family reunions during this period. Transport is really busy, flight prices increase, and train tickets can become hard to buy (prepare for long waits and many people when buying a train ticket).  Train tickets are sold out up to 10 days in advance, but typically 5 days.  For days before the festival Chinese families spring clean their houses, which is believed to sweep away bad luck and bring good fortune in the coming year.Very Busy!

January 30
(Chinese New Year’s Eve)
Fireworks
Cheap Flights PM

Chinese New Year’s Eve is one of three days of the statutory holiday. Every family will dine together. Travel is now calmer and flight prices drop a little. Banks, government offices, and shops are still open, but hours are much shorter. Lots of fireworks will be let off, especially with the coming of the new year. Hongbao (red envelopes) are given to kids with the coming of the new year.
Greeting: 过年好 guònián hǎo
Send a (Free) Chinese New Year e-card
Better, but local transport can be busy

January 31
(Chinese New Year’s Day)
Hongbao
Cheap Flights
Visits/Gifts

The first day of the Chinese calendar in 2014. There are firecrackers in the morning (before opening the door) and early evening (before dinner). Most people visit their neighbors or friends and relatives nearby. Hongbao (red envelopes) are given to kids. Some people will stay at home and celebrate; some will go out for a walk if the weather is nice. Almost no bank and government office is open. Only some big shopping malls are open.
Greetings: 新年快乐 (Xīnnián kuàilè.)
恭喜发财 (Gōngxǐ fācái.)
万事如意 (Wànshì rúyì.)
See more greetings and sayings for Chinese New Year

February 1
(Day 2 of Chinese New Year)
Visits/Gifts

The second day of Chinese New Year 2014, and also the last day of Chinese New Year’s three statutory days of holiday. People visit friends and relatives. There will be fireworks for greeting guests and before dinner. Almost no bank and government office is open. Only some big shopping malls are open.

February 2
(Day 3of Chinese New Year)
Visits/Gifts

Visit friends and relatives in the city and visit friends and family in nearby villages. So local travel and town and village buses are busy but travel to other cities and domestic flights are ok. Some banks and government offices are open, but business is limited and hours are much shorter. Only some big shopping malls are open.

February 3 to 4
(Days 4 & 5)
Visits/Gifts

The statutory holiday period will be over. Some people will keep visiting friends and relatives; some will go back to work. Most banks and government offices will be open, but business is limited and hours are shorter. Most shops will be open.Very Busy!

February 5
(Day 6)
Return Travel

Almost all shops, companies, and offices will re-open on this day, because 6 is a lucky number in Chinese culture. However, some may choose the 8th (February 7) as their re-opening day, as 8 is also a lucky number.Very Busy!

February 5 to 23

Return Travel

Tens of millions of migrant workers and college students return to their work places and colleges during this period, so transport is really busy, flight prices increase, and train tickets can become hard to buy (prepare for long waits and lots of people buying train tickets). Get your ticket in advanced, release date is often 10 days prior to travel.