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Spring Festival China: What? Why? And When?

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The Chinese Spring Festival also known as the Chinese New Year or the Lunar New Year usually lasts 7-8 days. This also marks China’s longest public holiday. The Chinese Spring Festival is so important for the Chinese community that it is celebrated globally by their foreign population. Singapore is one such country and so are Australia, the United States, Canada, and many more. Unlike the normal New Year celebrations which last a day, the Chinese New Year celebrations can last up to 2 weeks. It is an extravagant event with parades, dinners, fireworks, dancing, chores, and more. During the Spring Festival in China, the streets are dominated by loud fireworks, large banquets, iconic red lanterns, and more. In countries like the USA, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and more. The non-Chinese population also actively takes part in the celebrations. The reason behind their active participation is the sheer extravagance of the event. People are drawn to the culture and it also promotes the healthy growth of Chinese culture.

Table of Content

  1. When is the Spring Festival in China?
  2. How long is Spring Festival in China?
    1. 2024 - The Year of the Dragon
    2. Almost 4000 Years of History
    3. House Chores
    4. Family Dinners
    5. Red Money Envelopes
    6. Exchanging Greetings on Social Apps
    7. CCTV New Year’s Gala
    8. Fireworks at Midnight
    9. Visiting Family Members
    10. Temple Fairs and Folk Shows
  3. What are the 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs?
  4. So what is your Chinese Zodiac sign?
    1. Rat
    2. Ox
    3. Tiger
    4. Rabbit
    5. Dragon
    6. Snake
    7. Horse
    8. Goat
    9. Monkey
    10. Rooster
    11. Dog
    12. Pig
  5. Travel Tips for Foreigners During the Spring Festival in China
  6. Conclusion

When is the Spring Festival in China?

While the Global New Year is celebrated on the 1st of January. The Chinese New Year doesn’t adhere to a fixed date. Because China follows its own lunar calendar. However, the China Spring Festival dates in China usually fall between the 21st of January and the 20th February of the Gregorian calendar.

How long is Spring Festival in China?

The celebrations usually last for a week. For the Spring Festival Holiday in China, the government allows at least a week off from work.

1. 2024 - The Year of the Dragon

The Chinese zodiac designates 2024 as the year of the dragon. We expect that the Chinese New Year will be celebrated on the 10th of February. In the Chinese zodiac, each year is represented by a unique animal. The animal of the zodiac is featured in a 12-year cycle. For example, people born in 1928, 1940, 1952, and so on are a part of the Dragon Zodiac family. 2024 marks the next upcoming year of the dragon. The year 2025 would be featuring Snake as its prominent symbol.

2. Almost 4000 Years of History

The Chinese Spring Festival originated during the Shang Dynasty during the 17th - 11th century BC. The ceremony was originally to honor heavenly deities and ancestors. The year has been known as ‘Nian’ in Mandarin since the Zhou Dynasty. According to folklore a monster named ‘Nian’ wreaked havoc and fought with people, however, the monster is afraid of loud noises and the color red. Hence, we see so many fireworks and the red color dominates the Chinese Spring Festival decorations. As time progressed, the festival became more about spending time with family and praying for better omens in the future. Moreover, traditions now focus more on entertainment and food. How is the Spring Festival Celebrated in China? Now that you know, what is the spring festival in China? We can move on to how it is celebrated. Unlike the global New Year, which is usually spent on a night out. The Chinese Spring Festival is quite different, the general public usually sees the bright lights, fireworks, and food. But the Chinese New Year is celebrated in so many more ways. Think of the Spring Festival in China as Christmas. People buy gifts, clean homes, invite family members, and start their preparation month before the festival actually begins. Let's dwell on the preparation and festivities in more detail:

3. House Chores

Family roles are well-defined in the Chinese community. In most cases, no matter where you are in the country, be it the countryside or the urban areas. A hard working housewife cleans the entire house before the Chinese New Year. If the chores are too much, the entire family often lends a hand with sweeping, washing, whipping, mopping, and more. The Chinese believe that they need to rid their home of last year's dust, to make the next year's fortunes better. Once the house chores are complete, the house is decorated with bright red lanterns, spring festival couplets, red window papers, Chinese knots, and ‘FU’ character pictures.

4. Family Dinners

Family is one of the focal points of the Spring Festival. All Chinese citizens are able to come home before New Year's Eve. Family dinners are a very important part of the festival. You can find certain Chinese dishes in all homes during the reunion dinner including braised or steamed fish, various kinds of meats, seafood, and vegetables. Dumplings are essential for the northern Chinese, and rice cakes for the southern Chinese. Nights are spent enjoying cheerful family talks and delicious food.

5. Red Money Envelopes

Youngsters and babies are given money by seniors which is thought of as lucky. Money is usually given in a red sealed packet, to ward off evil spirits from children. The rich families commonly give up to CNY 5,000 and the common man usually gives between CNY 100 to 500. Traditionally the money is used for buying toys, clothes, snacks, stationary, or saved up for education. Sometimes a portion of the money is given to children as pocket money.

6. Exchanging Greetings on Social Apps

WeChat is the equivalent of WhatsApp in China. People often send red envelopes on the application along with greetings and wishes. Moreover, community members also exchange greetings in the streets. Emoji that represent the New Year animals are also exchanged commonly.

7. CCTV New Year’s Gala

From 10 pm to 12:30 pm, the Chinese people are hooked on their televisions watching the CCTV New Year Gala. It is China’s most-watched televised event, despite a decline in viewership numbers in the past decade. Music, opera, comedy, dance, and acrobatic performances are featured in the 4.5-hour broadcast. Even though people today do not enjoy programming as much as they used to, they still turn their TVs on. Watching this program has been a tradition since the 1980s.

8. Fireworks at Midnight

There are numerous fireworks and all you can hear from midnight to 12:30 am are the sounds of fireworks. Even though the New Year bell also goes off at 0:00, you can barely hear it because of the loud fireworks. Chinese fireworks are world famous and for good reason. Fireworks are a time-honored tradition and because of it, they are uniquely created and are cheap to buy. According to folklore, these fireworks are set off to scare the legendary monster Nian, who comes out at midnight. However, since fireworks cause pollution and are dangerous, they are banned in Urban areas and places of high population density. However, because of tradition, the government allows certain days to use them like the Spring Festival.

9. Visiting Family Members

The first day is spent with the initial family enjoying food, conversation, and more. However, the next day marks the beginning of meeting relatives. Married couples visit the wife’s mother and father. Various relatives are met in the coming days, but the closest ones are priority. Some rural areas have vast family members and even 15 days are not enough to meet them all. During the visitation, relatives exchange gifts and money.

10. Temple Fairs and Folk Shows

In cities, there are numerous temple fairs offering religious worship, games, costume performances, and snacks. Lantern fairs are also common, offering a beautiful view and experience. Moving towards the rural areas, where folk shows are commonly seen like stilt walking and Yangko dance. Of course, how can one forget the famous lion and dragon dances we commonly see in American movies.

What are the 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs?

Like regular zodiac signs, Chinese people associate births with timelines and creatures that represent personality traits in people. Chinese people have assigned animals to personality traits defined by birth times. They believe that people born in a given year have traits of the animal assigned to that year. One major difference between the normal and Chinese zodiacs is that normal zodiac signs are assigned based on months of the year while the Chinese zodiac is assigned based on years.

So what is your Chinese Zodiac sign?

All zodiac sign animals come around every 12 years. Each zodiac is assigned a zodiac animal. Ancient Chinese teachings have assigned each animal with certain personality traits. The Chinese people commonly believe that such personality traits are also displayed by people born during that Zodiac’s era. It is important to note that while many of these animals may feel offensive to foreigners. In Chinese culture, it is the good traits of each animal that is more in focus. However, there are also negative traits of each sign.

1. Rat

Recent Years of the Rat are as follows: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, and 2020. The rat sign is associated with being quick-witted, versatile, kind, and resourceful.

2. Ox

Recent Years of the Ox are as follows: 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, and 2021. The Ox sign is associated with being dependable, diligent, strong, and determined.

3. Tiger

Recent Years of the Tiger are as follows: 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, and 2022. The Tiger sign is associated with being confident, brave, and competitive.

4. Rabbit

Recent Years of the Rabbit are as follows: 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, and 2023. The Rabbit sign is associated with being elegant, quite kind, and responsible.

5. Dragon

Recent Years of the Dragon are as follows: 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, and 2024. The Dragon sign is associated with being confident, intelligent, and enthusiastic.

6. Snake

Recent Years of the Snake are as follows: 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, and 2025. The snake sign is associated with being enigmatic, intelligent, and wise.

7. Horse

Recent years of the Horse are as follows: 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, and 2026. The horse sign is associated with being animated, active, and energetic.

8. Goat

Recent Years of the Goat are as follows: 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, and 2027. The goat sign is associated with being calm, gentle, and sympathetic.

9. Monkey

Recent Years of the Monkey are as follows: 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, and 2028. The monkey sign is associated with being sharp, smart, and curious.

10. Rooster

Recent Years of the Rooster are as follows: 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, and 2029. The rooster sign is associated with being observant, hardworking, and courageous.

11. Dog

Recent Years of the Dog are as follows: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030. The dog sign is associated with being lovely, honest, and prudent.

12. Pig

Recent Years of the Pig are as follows: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031. The pig sign is associated with being Compassionate, generous, and diligent.

Travel Tips for Foreigners During the Spring Festival in China

1. Be ready for large crowds and gatherings. The 40 days prior to the new year are full of travelers. Some nearly 2-3 billion passengers are trying to get home in this period.

2. Try to stay calm during fireworks because they can be very loud and bright. Sounds of explosions take over the surroundings and many foreigners often fear that these may be bombs.

3. Always do the shopping, business, and leisure activities in the morning because shops close early during the season.

4. The weather can be cold throughout the country with certain exceptions. So pack winter clothes and stay warm. The last thing you want is to be sick during these holidays.

Conclusion

Chinese culture and folklore are truly intriguing. While the world celebrates the coming of a new year with resolutions. The Chinese celebrate by meeting family members, feasting, parades, and so much more. Many people from around the world visit China just for the New Year. The celebrations are prominent in the Chinese community all over the world, especially in the USA and Singapore. The future generations are more inclined towards the celebration aspects rather than tradition. A reason why we see less emphasis on folklore that was once notably focused on.

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