This new lunar year marks the year of the dog and sees the largest human migration that takes place every year. If you’re like me, you understand the idea of Chinese New Year but don’t really understand Chinese New Year’s importance to the Chinese and others who celebrate it.
I’ve listed 7 things I recently learned from talking to some of our top Chinese translators about what makes Chinese New Year so important:
1. It’s the most important holiday and spans 15 days
I always used to think that it was just another holiday, ignorantly comparing it to the usual ‘western’ new year as just another celebration. However, Chinese New Year is a national holiday in China. Each day celebrated represents a separate meaning.
2. Is it just me or does the date change every year?
The good news is: it’s not you. The date changes every year because Chinese New Year is based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar from 2600 B.C. Although China now follows the Gregorian calendar for everything, this is one of those events where they try to match their lunar calendar with today’s calendar.
3. It’s the biggest human migration each year.
You’ve probably heard stories of ghost towns and cities in China during the Chinese New Year – this is because most people travel to their home towns to celebrate the New Year with their families and friends. In fact, approximately 2.8 billion trips are made each year during the Chinese New Year.
4. Why all the red envelopes?
As gifts, children usually receives red envelopes filled with cash. They should only receive an amount that is an even number and not divisible by four (the number four is nearly homophonous to the word ‘death’ in Chinese).
5. The fire crackers actually mean something.
You’ll notice a lot of firecrackers going off, this is to ward off evil spirits.
6. The year of the Dog
This year’s the year of the dog is best explained by Chinese New Year 2018 https://chinesenewyear2018.com/zodiac/dog/
The Dog is the eleventh of all zodiac animals. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party. Monkey, Rooster and Dog were in another country, helping a god defeat evil spirits. After, they set off to the party together. Because they arrived at the same time, the Jade Emperor went by the order they met the god in the other country. Thus, Dog became eleventh.
The Dog is also associated with the Earthly Branch (地支—dì zhī) xū (戌), and the hours 7–9 in the evening. In the terms of yin and yang (阴阳—yīn yáng), the Dog is yang.
In China, it is still popular to name dogs Wàng Cái (旺财). It means “prosperous wealth” and comes from dogs’ barking sounds (旺旺—wàng wàng).
7. The lantern festival
The lantern festival is held on the last/15th day of the Lunar Year, this is where red lanterns are released in to the sky to light the way for the rest of the year and help misguided spirits to heaven.
Written by Sophia Dickinson, LEXIGO: Sophia is a writer and communications consultant with 10 years’ experience in the public service and not-for-profit sectors. She has also taught English in France and spent a year working at a local NGO in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. She is passionate about writing, intercultural communication and languages (she speaks French, Indonesian and is learning Spanish). Read more about her experiences here.