This is why the Chinese New Year is celebrated later on than the rest of the world.

The New Year is well underway for most of us, however, in China, its not yet even New Year’s eve. What’s the catch? The date of the Chinese New Year changes each year, and falls somewhere within January and February. This is because the Chinese New Year (also known as the Lunar New Year or Lantern Festival) is calculated according to the lunar calendar — based on the moon. We’re used to the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the solar calendar — tracking the sun. Dear friends, if you missed your New Year’s celebration, don’t worry, the Chinese New Year is a few days away from now. Better catch up, and plan your resolution.

Chinese New Year: When Is It New Year In China?

The Chinese New Year could fall on any of the days between the last and first week of January or February — either the 31st or 1st. The celebrations typically last 16 days, starting around Chinese New Year’s Eve (January 31st) through February 15 or more. Celebrations are centered around removing the bad and the old by welcoming the new and the good. This is a time for worshipping ancestors, exorcising evil spirits, and praying for abundance harvest. The final day of Chinese New Year is climaxed with the Lantern Festival.

Also known as Yuan Xiao Festival, this is a holiday celebration in China and other Asian countries. This aims to promote reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness among communities in the new-coming year. Final day celebrations end with New Year decorations and family dinners, fireworks, vigils, processions with lighting paper lanterns off into the sky, and the infamous dragon dance. The entire celebration is a popular theme on the Chinese calendar, hence its marked as a public holiday — generally lasting for a week or two. Most Chinese will even take seven days off work just for the celebrations.

The Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese lunar calendar is a repeating 12-year cycle that’s linked with a specific animal which completes the Chinese Zodiac. This is a pseudo classification scheme based on the lunar calendar that assigns an animal to each year of the Chinese calendar. The Chinese Zodiac, (also called shengxiao in Mandarin), first appeared in the Zhan Guo period somewhere around the 5th century Before the Common Era (B.C.E). According to Chinese mythology, the Chinese yellow emperor, Emperor Huangdi, invented the Chinese lunar calendar somewhere around the 14th century B.C.E.

The Chinese Zodiac consists of 12 animals, each linked with a year, and their own specific characteristics. This is similar to how each month of the Gregorian calendar is linked with a sign, for instance, Pisces. The animals are the RatOxTigerRabbitDragonSnakeHorseGoatMonkeyRoosterDog, and Pig. The Rat is the first year, followed by the Ox, the Tiger, and the rest. The year 2020 was the year of the Rat, 2021 was the year of the Ox, making the year of this publication (2022) the year of the Tiger. So why on Earth in China were they arranged as such? Short story: a race.

Legend has it that, there was once upon a “Great Race.” (And why does China even have so many “Great” things?) The lunar cycle of the calendar was based on the winner of the race, as all animals were competing to reach the Jade Emperor. As the legend goes, the order they completed the race is the order in which the years are named. The Rat won the race, but fortunately for the Rat, it had a ride on the back of the Ox during the entire race, jumping off in the last minute to win the race. Now that’s how to win a Rat Race. This means the Ox had to settle for second place, and so as they all came, with the Pig coming last.

(Are you wondering why the Horse didn’t win the race? It’s Chinese, no wonder).

What’s Your Zodiac Animal?

Each animal in the Chinese Zodiac has a specific character associated with the particular year. For instance, the year 2022 is the year of the Tiger, the Tiger is the king of all beast in China. It characteristics include competitiveness, self-confident, bravery, strength, and great willpower.

Here’s a list of the characteristics of the animals:

  • Rat: quick-witted, smart, charming, and persuasive.
  • Ox: patient, kind, stubborn, and conservative.
  • Tiger: see above.
  • Rabbit: popular, compassionate, and sincere.
  • Dragon: energetic, fearless, warm-hearted, and charismatic.
  • Snake: charming, gregarious, introverted, generous, and smart.
  • Horse: energetic, independent, impatient, and traveling.
  • Goat: mild-mannered, shy, kind, and peace-loving.
  • Monkey: fun, energetic, and active.
  • Rooster: independent, practical, hard-working, and observant.
  • Dog: patient, diligent, generous, faithful, and kind.
  • Pig: loving, tolerant, honest, and appreciative of luxury.

You can tell your own Chinese Zodiac animal counting through the order list above. The year 2020 was the Rat, so you just work your way through to find your year and the associated characters. Let us know in the comments below.

Last but not least, how do you say “Happy New Year” in China? Good question! The two prominently spoken languages in China are Mandarin and Cantonese. So the most common way is to say xīnnián hǎo (新年好), which literally translates as “New Year Goodness.” Kinda! For correct pronunciation, its ‘sshin-nyen haoww’ in Mandarin, and ‘sen-nin haow’ in Cantonese.

Happy Chinese New Year, y’all.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Wed, Jan 05, 2022.



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