The lunar new year means revelers across the world will be having two weeks of celebrations to welcome in 12 months of the Pig – but what is the story behind Chinese New Year and what do the animals mean?
The Year of the Pig begins on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. Celebrations are expected to last until February 19. Chinese New Year takes place on a different date every year because it is based on the lunar calendar. In this calendar a month is two days shorter than in the solar calendar so to make up for it an extra month is added every few years. The lunar calendar means the celebration always falls on a different date – unlike the January 1 New Year we are used to, based on the Gregorian calendar.
But Chinese New Year always falls between the end of January and mid-February. Each year is denoted by a different symbol from the Chinese 12-year animal zodiac, with this year being matched to the twelfth sign.
Celebrations are expected to last until the Lantern Festival on February 19 – although perhaps the most important celebrations are those on New Year’s Eve (February 4) and New Year’s Day on February 5. The celebrations, also known as Spring Festival, start on the 23rd day of the Lunar months and last for about 23 days – ending on the 15 days of the first lunar month in the following year of the Chinese calendar. However, according to the old folk customs, the traditional celebration begins even earlier, from the 23rd day of the twelfth lunar month.
The Chinese calendar assigns different animals from the zodiac to each lunar year in a cycle of 12 years. This year is the Year of the Pig, while last year it was the Dog. Pigs are the twelfth sign in the zodiac and are seen as independent, sincere, loyal and decisive, who aren’t afraid of difficulties in life. Due to these characteristics, they also enjoy harmonious relationships with those around them.
Chinese New Year is celebrated with the ringing of bells, the lighting of firecrackers and watching traditional lion dances, and many more! In China New Year’s Eve is seen as an important date, with families gathering together for a reunion dinner. Firecrackers are then let off to signal the end of last year and the beginning of next. On New Year’s Day, families gather, clean their houses and sweep away bad-fortune. Red envelopes stuffed with “lucky money” are given to children, along with written wishes for their kids to grow up healthy. However, Chinese New Year has also been touched by the digital age, with red envelope apps – where people can exchange cyber money – being launched. People also decorate their houses with red paper cutouts, banners, and special New Year paintings during the festive period. This year is also likely to see dog themed decorations.
So, what can you do to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year? Light some firecrackers, if available, and will scare off all the bad spirits around you. Do not light in the apartment or around the property since it may cause damages. You can always visit Chinatown in Chicago and see the parade and view their fireworks display. More importantly, spend time with family and it’s a time of the year to pay respect to the deceased or going to a temple to make offerings to their ancestors. Also, spend time with loved ones and friends, of course!
Happy Chinese New Year!