Culture February 16, 2018
Kung hei fat choi!
If you’ve been noticing a lot of celebrations going on around you, but you’re not sure why, well, it’s the Chinese New Year!
We’ve all heard of this joyous and colorful celebration, but not a lot of people know about its background or traditions. While the Western new year is usually celebrated with champagne and the dropping of a ball at midnight, Chinese New Year is celebrated a little differently.
So, here’s everything you need to know about the Chinese New Year.
The Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in China. It’s held on a different day every year, but in 2018, it starts on Friday, February 16 and marks the Year of the Dog.
According to History, the holiday is tied to the Chinese lunar calendar and, traditionally, it was a time to honor household and heavenly deities and ancestors. It was also meant to bring families together for feasting.
While we know it’s the Year of the Dog, what does that exactly mean? Well, it has to do with the Chinese zodiac.
The Chinese zodiac moves in a 12-year cycle, so people born in 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2018 are known as “dogs.”
Chinese astrology says that your personality traits are defined by your birth year and the animal tied to that year. If you’re confused, you can use the common astrology as a reference. Instead of relating constellations (i.e. Pisces, Virgo, Cancer) to your birth month, Chinese astrology relates an animal to your birth year.
So, if you’re the Year of the Dog, you’re known to be faithful and honest.
The animal changes at the beginning of the year, and they used to date the years.
Although the Western calendar marks the New Year on January 1 every year, the Chinese New Year is constantly changing. It’s also dictated by the lunar calendar and can fall anytime between January 21 and February 20. This is because the Chinese New Year begins with the new moon.
While we know your zodiac sign is usually determined by the position of the Sun on the date you were born, Chinese New Year animals are decided a little differently.
The ox, horse, goat, rooster, pig and dog were chosen because they are all domestic animals that are raised by Chinese people. The rat, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake and monkey are all animals loved by the Chinese people.
These animals were then divided into a yin or yang category based on whether they have an even or odd number of hooves, claws or toes.
Then, they were arranged in an alternating yin and yang sequence.
So, the order is rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Every 12 years, the cycle repeats starting with the rat.
If you want to find out what Chinese zodiac animal you are, refer to this chart:
According to The Sun, legend has it that the Jade Emperor wanted animals to become part of the calendar. So, he decreed that the 12 who arrived first would be selected.
When the cat and the rat, who were good friends at the time, heard the news, the cat said to the rat: “We should arrive early to sign up, but I usually get up late.”
So, the rat promised to wake his friend up so they could go together. But, since he was so excited, the rat forgot and went alone.
Unfortunately, although he went early, the tiger, ox, horse and other animals were all much faster than him.
So, he convinced the ox to carry him on his back by agreeing to sing throughout the journey.
Although the ox arrived first, the rat sneaked in front of him and became the first lucky animal.
Once the cat arrived, the selection was over. So, now the cat hates the rat and always tries to chase and kill him.
Now that you know the history behind the holiday, how do you celebrate it?
This holiday is an explosion of color and sound. Traditions include bell ringing, lighting firecrackers and watching traditional lion dances. Families usually gather for dinner and clean their houses to sweep out the bad luck.
Occasionally, children will receive red envelopes filled with “lucky money.”
So, remember to greet a friend who is celebrating the Chinese New Year with the traditional greeting “Xing nian kuai le,” which translates to “Happy new year” in Chinese.
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