Chinese Spring Festival & New Year 2020

Spring is on the way and in Stannington First School, we have been learning about the Chinese Spring Festival or New Year.

Chinese New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world. It’s the most important holiday in China and to Chinese people everywhere. 2020 will be the Year of the Rat. Here are some interesting facts that we have discovered about Chinese New Year.

1. Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival
In China, you'll hear it being called chunjie (春节), or the Spring Festival. It’s still very wintry, but the holiday marks the end of the coldest days. People welcome spring and what it brings along: planting and harvests, new beginnings and fresh starts. It can also be called the Lunar New Year because countries such as North and South Korea and Vietnam celebrate it as well. 

2. There's no set date for Chinese New Year
Unlike festivals such as Christmas, there is no set date for Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year ranges from January 21 to February 20. In 2020, Chinese New Year officially begins on January 25th, 2020, and ends on February 4th.

3. The Spring Festival was originally a ceremonial time to pray to the gods for a good planting and harvest season. People also prayed to their ancestors, as they were treated as gods.

4. It’s a time for fighting monsters! According to one legend, there was a monster named Nian (年). It would come out every New Year’s Eve. Most people would hide in their homes. But one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. The next day, people celebrated their survival by setting off even more firecrackers. And that practice became a crucial part of the Spring Festival.

5. The most fireworks are set off in the world that night
As in the myth about Nian, firecrackers are supposed to scare off monsters and bad luck. So people stay up on Chinese New Year’s Eve and set off firecrackers at midnight. In the morning, firecrackers are used again to welcome the new year and good luck. That same night, families also burn fake paper money and printed gold bars in honor of their deceased loved ones. Similar to the Korean Chuseok holiday or the Mexiacan Day of the Dead traditions, they believe the offerings will bring fortune and good luck to their ancestors in the afterlife. Due to safety reasons and concerns for air pollution, many Chinese cities have banned fireworks.

6. It is the longest Chinese holiday The Spring Festival is technically 15 days. Traditionally, you have to spend time with your family and can only go out after the 5th day of the festival. It’s a national holiday. The large majority of stores are closed too.

7. The Spring Festival causes the largest human migration in the world
The most important part of Chinese New Year is the family reunion. Everyone should come back home for the New Year’s Eve dinner. However, in modern China, most elderly parents live in rural villages while their children work in the cities so this is a time of travelling for many people.. The migration back home and to go on holiday is called chunyun (春运), or Spring Migration. The earliest you can buy train tickets is 60 days before. It leads to a mad rush of literally fighting for tickets. In 2015, statistics showed that around 1,000 tickets were sold each second.

8. No showering, sweeping or throwing out rubbish is allowed! Showering isn’t allowed on New Year’s Day. Sweeping and throwing out rubbish isn’t allowed before the 5th day of the festival. This is to make sure that good luck is not washed away! On the other hand, there’s a day before the Spring Festival dedicated to cleaning. This day is to sweep the bad luck away and make room for the good.

9. Children receive lucky money in red envelopes

Also called red packets or pockets, they include money. This money is supposed to help transfer fortune from the elders to the children. They can also be given between bosses and employees, co-workers, and friends. With the development of technology, digital red pockets are the trend now. People like to send one into group chats and watch the others fight for the money. This is called qiang hongbao (抢红包), or literally “snatching red pockets”.

10. The Chinese decorate everything red for Chinese New Year
Every family will deck their homes in this colour. Do you remember the story about Nian? Firecrackers aren’t the only thing that scared the monster away. Red is also an invaluable weapon, and used in nearly all Chinese New Year decorations. The Chinese will hang up red lanterns and strings of (real or fake) chili peppers, paste red paper onto doors and windows, and more!
New clothes are also believed to bring good luck and start over fresh. People will add new red clothing to their Spring Festival wardrobe too.

11. Every year has a zodiac animal

Western horoscopes include 12 signs of the zodiac. The Chinese zodiac is represented by twelve animals but the animal represents the entire year, on a twelve year cycle.

2020 is the year of the Rat. The rat is the first of all the zodiac animals. 

12. Chinese New Year ends with the Lantern Festival

The first full moon of the (lunar) year is the Yuanxiao Festival (元宵节—yuán xiāo jié) or Lantern Festival (灯节—dēng jié). Though family is still important, it’s still a night of partying and freedom. In ancient times, girls weren’t allowed to venture outside by themselves. But on this night, they were able to walk around, moon-gaze and look at the beautiful lanterns. Because of this, it’s also known as Valentine’s Day in China.