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|Chinese:||春节 Chūn Jié /chwn-jyeah/|
|Also called:||'Spring Festival', Lunar New Year|
|2019 date:||Tuesday, Feb. 5th|
|2020 date:||Saturday, Jan. 25th|
|Celebrations:||New Year decorations, New Year's Eve dinner, firecrackers and fireworks, red envelopes...|
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 will be February 4–10, 2019.
Chinese New Year has a varying date 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 Lunar New Year, day 1 of China’s lunar calendar, 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.
In popular Chinese astrology Chinese New Year is important... For Chinese people, years begin at Chinese New Year, rather than January 1!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Date (2019)||At Home and in the Streets||Transport||At Work / What's Open|
|Jan. 20 – Feb. 3||Streets decorated, cleaning, shopping, school holidays from Jan. 26.||Crazy busy: homeward journeys||End of year events; winding down|
|Feb. 4 (CNY's Eve)||Homes decorated, reunion dinner, firecrackers, CCTV New Year Gala||Better, but locally busy||Most shops closed by the afternoon; businesses close|
|Feb. 5 (CNY's Day)||12am, dawn, dusk: fireworks, firecrackers; family gifts, red envelopes; greetings||Quiet||No offices/banks open; only big malls open|
|Feb. 6 (CNY day 2)||Visiting nearby friends or relatives, firecrackers for guests and before dinner||Quiet||Most govt. offices shut; only big malls open.|
|Feb. 7 (CNY day 3)||Visiting friends and relatives in the city or friends and family in nearby villages||Locally busy, otherwise okay||Limited govt./bank services; only big malls open.|
|Feb. 8–9 (CNY day 4–5)||Visiting friends and relatives, or relaxing/traveling / returning to work.||Very busy: city return journeys begin||Limited govt./bank services; some shops reopen.|
|Feb. 10 (CNY day 6)||The public holiday period ends. China prepares to go back to work.||Very busy: more city return journeys||Some businesses reopen a day early.|
|Feb. 11–19 (CNY days 7–15)||Life returns to normal; schools reopen Feb. 27; decorations up till Lantern Festival (Feb. 19).||Crazy busy: return travel rush||Business as normal by CNY day 8 (Feb. 12).|
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.
See more on Chinese New Year Taboos.
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, and particularly for the New Year's Eve family reunion dinner.
The luckiest Chinese New Year foods (and their symbolic meanings) are:
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/.
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).
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...