Chinese New Year 2014
Dates: January 30 (Chinese New Year's Eve) to February 14 (Lantern Festival), 2014
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). 2014 is the year of the horse.
The festival falls on the first day of the first lunar month (in the period January 21 to February 20), and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. The New Year celebrations may begin one or two days before the festival.
The festival is celebrated grandly across the country with various cultural activities arranged. Firework shows, dragon dancing and lion dancing are the most common Chinese New Year activities. Even days before the festival, Chinese families clean the house. 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. This is the reason why the busiest travel time happens during this period. Travelers who plan to visit China during the New Year time are recommended to book everything in advance.
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 or farming activities came, 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 crops’ growing 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 lunar tenth month of a year.
The exact celebration period of Spring Festival was fixed in 104 BC and was given a name “suishou” (aka “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 as "yuandan". The traditional New Year’s Day was given another name—"Chun Jie" (春节 'Spring Festival').
Legend and Traditional Custom
According to traditional customs, people stay up late or all night with the lights on Spring Festival’s Eve and will set off firecrackers as soon as the first second of the 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. However, people found that "Nian" appeared in human society every 365 days after dark, and when the dawn came, it went back to a wooded mountain, and the most important thing—it was very scared of the 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.
Best Places to Visit during the Chinese New Year
Chinese Spring Festival is the best time to experience authentic Chinese culture. There are many cultural activities in the streets of cities and towns such as displays of lanterns, traditional decorations, and dragon dance. These cities including Beijing, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Xian are the best places to see the cultural activities during the Spring Festival.
Is it possible to travel in China during Chinese New Year?
Travel to China is possible over the New Year as long as you are well-prepared. Be prepared to see big crowds in the streets, restaurants, trains and train stations. All travel bookings are extremely tight , hotels generally increase their rates.
Will everything be closed over Chinese New Year?
The tourist-related industry opens as usual even though government buildings and offices are closed during the New Year Holiday. Restaurants, tourists attractions, hotels, airports, departments stores will be open and ready for more customers.
What is the weather like during the New Year Festival?
The Chinese New Year Festival takes place in late January and late February, which is the coldest time in China. North China is a frozen expanse with average temperature below 0 ℃(32℉). Take Beijing and Harbin for example. In Beijing temperate sometimes plummets to -10 ℃(14℉) during the New Year. It is even colder in Harbin with the lowest temperature below -20 ℃(-4℉). Snowy and icy weather is common. Read more on China Weather.
South China is a 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 frozen and windy. Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in winter are comfortable. Wintering in southern Yunnan province is enjoyable but dramatic difference occur in temperature between daytime 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 your practice if you do bring surprise for them. A pair of warm gloves, a warm scarf and a box of candies are recommended.
In terms of lucky money, how much should I give and how to give?
The amount of lucky money varies according to the recipient and the relations between the giver and the recipient. Bosses giving to employers, parents giving to child usually range from 200 to 500 or even more. The money will be put in red envelope. Parents usually give the lucky money to their children the first day of the New Year. Bosses give the lucky money to their employees the first working day in the New Year.
A Practical Day by Day Guide to Chinese New Year 2014
If you are traveling in China during 2013’s Chinese New Year period, the following table might be useful to you. Several travel ABCs 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, greeting and customs etc.
Every year, the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) travel peaks with Chinese New Year (February 9, 2013 is the Chinese New Year’s Eve). The Spring Festival travel peak of 2013 will begin on January, 26, 2013, and last till March 6, 2013. However, there is a short period: February 9 – February 12, when transport is much less busy than other days during the Chinese New Year period.
|A Practical Day by Day Guide to Chinese New Year 2013|
Jan. 16 to March. 6
Tens of millions of migrant workers and college students rush home for family reunions during this period, traveling 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 sold max. 10 days prior to travel, but typically 5 days. For days before the festival Chinese families spring clean their house which is believed to sweep away bad luck and bring good-fortune in the coming year.
Saturday February. 9
It is Chinese New Year’s Eve and one of Chinese New Year’s three statutory holidays. Every family will dine together. Travel is now calmer than during the period Jan. 11–Jan. 21, and flight prices drop a little. Banks, Government offices and shops are still available, but hours are much shorter. Lots of fireworks, especially with the ringing of the new year. Hongbao (Red envelopes) are given to kids with the ringing of the new year.
|Better, but local transport can be busy|
Sunday Feb. 10
The first day of Chinese New Year 2012. 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.
The second day of Chinese New Year 2012 and also the last day of Chinese New Year’s three statutory holidays. 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.
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.
Feb. 13 to Jan. 14
The end of Chinese New Year 2012. Some people will keep visiting friends and relatives; some will go back to work. More banks and government offices are open, but business is limited and hours are shorter. More shopping places open.
Almost all the shops, companies and offices will re-open on this day, because the 6th is the luckiest number in Chinese culture. However, some may choose the 8th day (Jan. 30) as their re-opening day, also a lucky number.
Feb. 16 to Feb. 24
Tens of millions of migrant workers and college students rush back to their work places and colleges during this period, transport is really busy, flight prices increase and train tickets can become hard to buy (prepare for long waits and lots of people buying a train ticket). Get your ticket in advanced, release date is often 10 or 5 days prior to travel.
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