Chinese New Year or 'Spring Festival' is China's most important festival and holiday time. Chinese New Year 2019 falls on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, beginning a year of the Pig. China's public holiday is February 4–10, 2019.
When Is Chinese New Year?
- 2019: February 5th (upcoming)
- 2020: January 25th
- 2021: February 12th
Chinese New Year has no fixed date in the Gregorian calendar, but it’s always in the period January 21 to February 20. In recent decades, it has been the second day of a 7-day public holiday in Mainland China.
It's day 1 of China’s lunar calendar or lunar new year, which is within a day of the second new moon before the spring equinox moon phase. It's oddly called Spring Festival, with it being in winter for most of China, but that's because it "looks forward to Spring". See more on Chinese New Year Dates.
|Solar Date||Lunar Date||Title|
|January 28th||December 23rd||Little Year|
|February 4th||December 30th||New Year's Eve|
|February 5th||January 1st||Spring Festival|
|February 19th||January 15th||Lantern Festival|
Chinese New Year Animals (The Chinese Zodiac)
Each Chinese year has an animal sign according to the Chinese zodiac. Chinese people traditionally believe that years begin and end at Chinese New Year, rather than January 1. 2018 is a Dog year, and February 5th 2019 will start a year of the Pig.
Chinese New Year Celebrations — the 4 Main Things
The main Chinese New Year activities include 1) putting up decorations, 2) eating reunion dinner with family on New Year's Eve, 3) firecrackers and fireworks, and 4) giving red envelopes and other gifts. These four things are introduced below.
Public celebrations: In many Chinese cities, from New Year's Day, traditional performances can be seen: dragon dances, lion dances, and imperial performances like an emperor's wedding. A great variety of traditional Chinese products are on offer, and rarely seen Chinese snacks. City parks and temple fairs are the places to go for this.
Chinese New Year Decorations — Lucky Red Items
Every street, building, and house where Spring Festival is celebrated is decorated with red. Red is the main color for the festival, as red is believed to be an auspicious color. Red Chinese lanterns hang in streets; red couplets are pasted on doors; banks and official buildings are decorated with red New Year pictures depicting images of prosperity.
Most public decoration is done a month before, but home decoration is traditionally done on Chinese New Year's Eve. As 2019 will be a year of the Pig, decorations related to pigs will be commonly seen. Look out for red pig dolls for children and New Year paintings with pigs on. See more on Chinese New Year Decorations.
Chinese New Year's Eve — Family Time
Chinese New Year is a time for families to be together. Wherever they are, people are expected to be home to celebrate the festival with their families.The New Year's Eve dinner is called 'reunion dinner', and is believed to be the most important meal of the year.
Like people waiting in New York Time Square to see the ball dropping, Chinese people have the custom of staying up late on Chinese New Year's Eve to welcome the new year's arrival. After reunion dinner, families normally sit together to watch the Spring Festival Gala, one of the most watched TV shows in China. At the same time, most people send WeChat red envelopes or short messages to acquaintances by phone.
Firecrackers and Fireworks at Chinese New Year
It has long been a Chinese tradition to set off firecrackers from the first minute of their new year. Fireworks have increasingly been added to the cacophony. From public displays in major cities to millions of private celebrations in China's rural areas, setting off firecrackers and fireworks is an indispensable festivity.
Billions of fireworks go up in China at 12am Chinese New Year, the most anywhere at any time of year.
Chinese New Year Gifts and Red Envelopes
Like at Christmas in other countries, people exchange gifts during the Spring Festival. In rural areas and for older people the New Year gift giving tradition is still strong, but increasingly younger people prefer just to receive red envelopes (by hand or electronically).
The most common New Year gifts are red envelopes. Red envelopes have money in, and are believed to bring good luck because they are red. They are given to children and retirees. Customarily only employers give red envelopes to working adults. See more on red envelopes.
A Practical Day-by-Day Guide to Chinese New Year 2019 in China
Businesses and public institutions in China take a 7-day Chinese New Year holiday, but those who need to (like us) will have some staff on duty. However, most large malls, tourist attractions, public transport, hotels, and restaurants will open as usual, or even stay open longer! Also see when transport will be overloaded and when local customs are due to happen.
Chinese New Year Superstitions — Things You Must/Mustn't Do
In China people are becoming less superstitious, but Chinese people traditionally believe that the year's start affects the whole year, so the Chinese Spring Festival is a season of superstitions. It's believed that what something looks like (color, shape), and what its name sounds like, gives it auspicious or ill-fated properties.
The Luckiest Things to Do at Chinese New Year
- Giving money/gifts in lucky numbers and lucky red packaging with lucky greetings.
- Eating lucky food like fish on New Year's Eve, especially carp or catfish with some left over for New Year's Day.
- Lighting lots of red firecrackers and fireworks to scare away evil and bring good luck.
The Unluckiest Things to Do at Chinese New Year
- Having an accident, especially if it means hospital visits, crying, and breakages: all bad omens.
- Giving gifts with unlucky meanings, colors, words, or numbers, or even saying something inauspicious.
- Sweeping up on New Year's Day: don't "sweep all your luck away".
Chinese New Year Foods — Most Have Lucky Meanings
Food for the New Year emphasizes lucky symbolic meanings such as fish, which sounds like the Chinese word for 'surplus'. These foods are eaten during the 16-day festive season, an particularly for the New Year's Eve family reunion dinner.
Chinese New Year Greetings
One of the most famous traditional greetings for Chinese New Year is the Cantonese kung hei fat choi, literally ‘greetings, become rich’. In Mandarin that’s gongxi facai /gong-sshee faa-tseye/.
Chinese New Year's History
The festival has a history of over 3,000 years. Celebrations on lunar New Year's Day can be dated back to the ancient worship of heaven and earth. Over the centuries new traditions were added and celebrations became more entertainment-orientated. Read more on Chinese New Year History.
In 1967 food was rationed, and there was no money! Greetings were full of Communist fervor. Now people eat out for Chinese New Year, send e-money, and greet with instant messages on WeChat (the most popular app in China). Read more on Chinese New Year Over 5 Decades — Ration Coupons to App Money.
Chinese New Year Travel — Top Tips from Our Experts
The festive period is one of the best times of the year to interact with Chinese people, and experience the local culture. However, it is also the busiest time of the year on China's transportation network. So, you might want to avoid the transport stress or seek out China's New Year culture, or both...