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Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) is a major holiday in not just China but also other countries in Asia. Here are 10 interesting facts about this important and popular holiday.
The date for Chinese New Year changes each year. It always falls between January 21 and February 20, determined by the Chinese lunar calendar. Chinese New Year 2019 is on Tuesday February 5. See why on our page for Chinese New Year Dates.
Though in winter, Chinese call their New Year holidays 'Spring Festival' (春节 chūnjié /chwnn-jyeah/), because 'Start of Spring' (4–18 February) is the first of the terms in the traditional solar calendar. While wintry weather prevails, 'Start of Spring' marks the end of the coldest part of winter, when the Chinese traditionally could look forward to the beginning of spring.
Chinese zodiac years: A very old custom is to name the years by one of 12 animals in their zodiac cycle. For example, 2019 is a year of the Pig. Many Chinese still believe in astrology and other New Year superstitions.
People focus on priorities: making amends, reconciling with people, avoiding offence, and re-establishing old ties. They buy and wear new clothes, give gifts, and clean house.
It's China's winter vacation week, like between Christmas and New Year's Day other countries. Schools in China get about a month off, and universities even more. China, Hong Kong and Macau, and nine other Asian countries have public holidays.
These red envelopes with cash are given out from older to younger, from bosses to employees, and from leaders to underlings. It is a special New Year's bonus. Read more on How to Give Chinese New Year Lucky Money (Red Envelopes)
500 thousand people converged for Chinese New Year in London's Chinatown, Trafalgar Square, and central London streets in 2015.
In Hong Kong, a big holiday custom is horse racing: The most popular races of all in the city happens on the third day of the Spring Festival holidays when 100,000 excited fans crowd into Sha Tin Racecourse. The spectators watch a grand opening show, a featured lion dance, and a variety of cultural performances and entertainment.
200 million Mainland Chinese travel long distances for these holidays, and it is estimated that there are 3.5 billion journeys in China. For comparison, less than 100 million people travel more than 50 miles during the Christmas holidays in the US according to the American Automobile Association.
Tens of millions of people travel in other countries too.
No single hour in any other country sees as many tons of fireworks lighted as in China around the midnight beginning Chinese New Year. China produces about 90% of the world's fireworks!
Fireworks are used to scare evil spirits: Most mainland Chinese believe that the flash and bang of firecrackers and fireworks scare away demons and evil ghosts.
Read more on the Why Chinese New Year Must Have Firecrackers
Traditionally, the 16 days from New Year's Eve until the Lantern Festival each had a special celebration activity.
The Lantern Festival: In the evening of 15th day of the first lunar month (February 19, 2019), on the night of the full moon, families gather for dinner and go out and see fireworks and light lanterns. Lanterns are put up for decoration, let loose to fly, and floated in rivers.
Xīnnián kuàilè! (新年快乐). That's pronounced "sshin-nyen kwhy-luh", by the way.
Chinese New Year is a joyful time for most, but for singles above the normal matrimonial age it's not. Parents and relatives think they should be settled down. In China, females are said to be marriageable up to 30, and males before 32. Those who don't get married before these ages are thought to be the dregs of society!
For these singles, parents are extremely anxious. So New Year's Eve stress is heightened by embarrassing interrogations of the singles. Desperate parents even arrange dating (prospective marriages) for their single children.
To solve this problem an interesting, and often ridiculous, solution has appeared — renting a boyfriend or girlfriend for the New Year. There are websites and agents specialized in this business. Taobao, China's largest online retailer, has a section for fake boyfriend and girlfriend rentals. The price is about 100 yuan (16 USD) a day.
Chinese New Year is by far the busiest travel period in China. The heaviest travel periods are a few days before Chinese New Year and around 8 days after. Get your tickets as early as possible before the holidays. Check Chinese New Year dates.