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Eight things you need to know about Lunar New Year

‘Xin Nian Kuai Le!’ Best of luck for the coming year! From fascinating superstitions and legends to symbolic dishes, the Lunar New Year has an incredible array of unique and inspiring practices and traditions. Discover them all here with the 8 things you need to know about Lunar New Year. Why eight? Eight is considered an auspicious number in China. This is due to the pronunciation of the word which sounds similar to the word meaning “well-off” or “getting rich in a short time”.

1) WHAT IS LUNAR NEW YEAR?

Also known as Spring Festival, the Lunar New Year is the most important date on the Chinese calendar. Each year is represented by one of 12 animals, which feature as part of the Chinese Zodiac. In short, Lunar New Year is about two things: families and feasting. It’s a time of reunion that, in normal years, would see the largest annual mass migration of people travelling home to be with their loved ones. Over the course of the Lunar New Year, families will be preparing and enjoying long meals with their family, whilst honouring their ancestors and deities alike.

 

2) WHEN IS LUNAR NEW YEAR?

Unlike the Western New Year that begins on 1st January each year, the Lunar New Year’s date is different each year due to it being based on lunar cycles. This year it falls on 12th February and welcomes the arrival of the Year of the Ox. Read our guide to the Chinese Zodiac here. Based on the complex Lunar Calendar, Chinese New Year is held on the arrival of the first new moon between the 21st January and the 20th February.

3) HOW LONG IS THE LUNAR NEW YEAR?

Rather than just being a one night long party, those celebrating the Lunar New Year will see a whopping 15 days of celebrations and 7 days’ public holiday.

 

4) WHAT ARE LUNAR NEW YEAR CUSTOMS?

Firecrackers – Harking back to the legend of Nian, these noisy party-starters are set off in front of houses and shops to ward off evil, and of course, create quite a bang! At the stroke of midnight, families will rush outdoors to let them off.

Red…everything! – You’ll find red everywhere in China at New Year; pretty paper lanterns, banners, clothing and the iconic red envelopes. A colour signifying good luck, prosperity and vitality, red is very significant. Red envelopes (hongbao) will be stuffed with money given by older family members to younger ones.

An almighty clean – Thoroughly cleansing the house in preparation for the Lunar New Year isn’t just for making it nice. Families will carefully scrub their homes from top to bottom to sweep away the bad luck from the previous year.

 

5) THE LEGEND OF THE LUNAR NEW YEAR

The fabled legends of the Lunar New Year vary from storyteller to storyteller. Whilst the exact origins have been lost deep in the mists of ancient Chinese history, all myths include an evil monster called Nian, also the Chinese word for ‘year’.

Thousands of years ago, Nian would terrorise villagers until the village’s wise man advised them to scare the beast away with drumming and firecrackers since Nian hated loud noise and the colour red. The villagers triumphed and banished Nian for good.

Each year, the anniversary of Nian’s vanquishing, was recognised as ‘guo nian’ or the ‘passing of the year’, and thus, the Lunar New Year came into being.

6) WHAT IS EATEN AT THE LUNAR NEW YEAR?

Like almost every aspect of Chinese culture, there is great significance and symbolism with dishes and delicacies consumed at the Lunar New Year. Feasting with your family is the order of the day. Families will prepare foods like fish, chicken and dumplings, as they are symbols of luck and prosperity and are therefore commonly found at the Lunar New Year dinner table. 

Noodles are a staple of all Chinese diets, but at Lunar New Year they get a little bit, well, longer! Longevity noodles are considered the key to a long and healthy life. Find out more about celebratory Lunar New Year dishes here.

 

7) GIFTING AT THE LUNAR NEW YEAR

Much like Christmas, families and friends exchange gifts together at Chinese New Year. Unlike the Western Yuletide celebrations however, there are rules to abide by when it comes to gifting. Under no circumstances should clocks be given, as the Chinese pronunciation sounds like ‘death’, which is bad luck. Also banned are shoes, the word for these sounds like ‘evil’, which symbolises leaving. Finally, giving umbrellas is forbidden as the pronunciation is similar to ‘break up’ – another bad omen!

 

8) HOW TO CELEBRATE LUNAR NEW YEAR WITH CHINATOWN LONDON

You can be part of the action this Lunar New Year by ordering delicious celebratory food galore from Chinatown London! See what dishes are available to order here.

Stay tuned to our #StrongAsAnOx digital campaign on Chinatown London social channels as we celebrate the Lunar New Year virtually.

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