Facts about Chinese New Year

What is Chinese New Year?

  • Chinese New Year is called ‘Spring Festival’ in China. It marks the end of winter.

When is Chinese New Year Celebrated?

  • China celebrates its New Year between January 21st and February 20th each year.

Why is Chinese New Year not celebrated on January 1st?

  • China has a different calendar from the West, which is why they celebrate New Year on a different date from our 1st January.
  • China adopts the Lunisolar Calendar – this calendar uses the moon’s cycle and the sun’s to establish the time of the year. It’s not just China who use this calendar – other countries do as well.
  • Because the moon and sun’s cycle varies so does the New Year’s date.
  • The western calendar (Gregorian) is used by China to ‘fit in’ with the rest of the world but special events are always based on the Chinese Calendar.

How is Chinese New Year celebrated in China?

  • Chinese New Year is celebrated with dancing dragons and lions, fireworks and the giving of red envelopes.
  • The colour red represents good luck in China. Red envelopes contain small amounts of money and are often given to the unmarried – generally children – at special family events.
  • It is traditional in China for people to clean their houses – like a Spring clean – at New Year to rid themselves of bad luck/fortune.
  • Windows and doors are decorated with red (good luck colour) paper decorations – specifically pictures cut out of paper (paper cuttings) and ‘Couplets’ which are Chinese poems/verses expressing hopefulness for the New Year.

What is the Lantern Festival?

  • Chinese New Year celebrations end 15 days after Chinese New Year. The last day is the Lantern Festival.
  • The Lantern Festival is when children take paper lanterns to their local temples at night. Sometimes they solve puzzles written on the side of lanterns.
  • The paper lanterns can be displayed or set alight and allowed to float into the night’s sky.
  • The Lantern Festival marks the first full moon of the the New Year and ends the New Year celebrations.

The Chinese Zodiac Cycle

  • The Chinese assign an animal to each New Year. There are 12 animals in the cycle and they are assigned in the same order until all 12 are exhausted. The cycle then starts again.

You can see the cycle below:

Rat 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008
Ox 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009
Tiger 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010
Rabbit 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011
Dragon 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012
Snake 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013
Horse 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014
Sheep 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015
Monkey 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016
Rooster 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 2017
Dog 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 2018
Boar 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019


When is Chinese New Year 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020?

The table below shows the dates for the start of Chinese New Year until 2019. The Lantern Festival is 15 days after the start date. To see which Chinese Zodiac animal is assigned to the year, check out the table above.

2012 January 23rd
2013 February 10th
2014 January 31st
2015 February 19th
2016 February 8th
2017 January 28th
2018 February 16th
2019 February 5th

Did you know…

  • There are two Chinas! The larger China is officially the ‘People’s Republic of China’. The smaller China (Republic of China), better known as Taiwan, is ruled by the government who lost the civil war in 1949 and has a different flag.
  • China has a Communist Government who have been in place for over 60 years since the civil war.
  • The Chinese are only allowed to have one baby per couple. This is because the country has too many people so the government is controlling the birthrate to stop the population from getting even bigger.
  • China has the biggest population of people in the world today – a fifth of the world’s population lives in China. Consequently their language ‘Mandarin’ is the most spoken in the world.
  • Chinese is a language with a different alphabet from us. It looks like lots of small pictures (hieroglyphics).
  • Paper originated in China. So did gunpowder.
  • China is the home of the Great Wall of China which was built to keep out invaders. The Chinese began building the wall over 2,500 years ago and today it is about 4,000 miles long. It’s so big it can be seen from space!
  • Chinese food has been exported all around the world and adapted to suit western tastes.
  • China has lot of endangered and unusual wildlife, like giant pandas, leopards, tigers, porcupines and crocodiles.
  • Some Chinese fishermen have trained birds called Cormorants which catch fish for them.

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