Today is the beginning of the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Monkey. It marks the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, China’s biggest and most ceremonious holiday. Here are some facts about the holiday:
- The Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival since the 20th century. It is the most important social and economic holiday in China. Originally tied to the Chinese lunar calendar, the holiday is a time to honour household and heavenly deities, as well as ancestors.
- Each year is assigned one of 12 Zodiac signs with an associated animal. This year’s animal, the monkey, is the ninth animal in the 12-year cycle. The Chinese believe that each sign has associated characteristics, with people born under the monkey sign believed to be sociable, enthusiastic and intelligent, but also jealous and quick to anger.
- The Chinese hold new year celebrations between the January 21 and February 20, depending on the Chinese lunar calendar. This means the Chinese New Year can be any of 31 different dates.
- A typical Chinese New Year celebration lasts for 15 days, the longest festival in the Chinese calendar. The day itself is a public holiday in China and many other countries, including the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Additionally, the day is celebrated by Chinese communities worldwide.
- The two weeks of celebrations usually end with a Lantern Festival. On the eve of the 15th day, families and friends again come together to eat and to put up lanterns or release them into the skies. The Lantern Festival falls on the night of the first full moon of the Chinese New Year.
- The New Year celebrations are typically family-oriented. It is estimated that more than 200 million Chinese people undertake long journeys to return home for the celebrations.
- It is considered good luck to thoroughly clean the house for the festival as it removes bad feelings.
- Chinese families will usually fill their houses with red decorations as this is held to be a very lucky colour. The streets and public places may also be filled with red banners and signs at this time. One staple of the holiday is red envelopes, called hongbao in Mandarin, or lai see in Cantonese, that are filled with cash and given by married people to children, unmarried relatives and friends, and employees.
- Tradition says that Nian, a ferocious beast who preys on humans, emerges from his hiding place on New Year’s Eve, but is frightened off by all the red decorations and banners.
- The Chinese expression for Happy New Year is “Xinnian Kuaile,” which is pronounced as “sshin–nyen kwhy–luh.” It is common for the Chinese to greet strangers as well as friends at this time, to pass on good luck and fortune for the year ahead.
Read more about the arrival of the Chinese in Jamaica here.