Chinese New Year: traditions and superstitions
What’s your zodiac sign?
For those of you that didn’t know, in 2018, starting on the 16th of February, a quarter of the world's population celebrates the Chinese New Year. It’s one of the biggest and most important festivals in China and other countries like: Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and others. It goes back about 3000 years and each year it’s the cause of the largest human mass migration in the world. The reason is, wherever they live or work, people in these countries rush back home to visit their family and relatives for the following days or weeks.1
Its starting date is different each year but it always falls between January 21st and February 20th, on the first new moon that takes place in this interval.2 Although for official and commercial purposes the Chinese also follow the Gregorian calendar, traditionally they follow the Lunar Calendar. Whereas the Gregorian is related to the Sun (a year has the number of days it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun, approximately 365), the Lunar Year is based on the cycles of the moon. According to it, a month has 29 or 30 days and a lunar year has 12, or sometimes 13 months.
There are many traditions and superstitions related to this time of the year. People like to dress in red, hang red lanterns and use decorations that have positive words written on them, like “good fortune”, “longevity” or “wealth”, as all these traditions are believed to bring good luck. They also think that what you do at the start of the year will affect your health or wealth for the entire part of that year. That’s why, for the superstitious, the preparations begin a few days or even weeks before the New Year, when they thoroughly clean their houses and throw away everything they no longer use. They believe this way they’re making room for new positive things to come into their homes and into their lives. On the contrary, on the first day of the year they don’t clean or wash anything as that would wash away their good luck.
Receiving money on New Year’s is a very positive sign, that’s why parents and older members of a family traditionally give children and youngsters money in red envelopes. Nowadays many receive the money directly on an app in their phone. Naturally, these apps are also red.
Additionally, the sum of money they give has to be an even number, because odd numbers are a bad omen, they are associated with funerals. And pay attention to double digit numbers! In Chinese culture two digit numbers are considered even or odd based on their first digit, not their last. For example, thirty or fifty are considered even numbers by us, but odd by the Chinese, and therefore, unlucky.
And let’s not forget that according to Chinese astrology, 2018 is the year of the dog. In Chinese astrology, unlike its Western counterpart, people’s zodiac sign depends on the year they were born, not on the month. The twelve animals of the zodiac follow one after the other, forming twelve-year cycles. It is believed that according to their year of birth, people borrow some of the personality traits of the animal associated to each year.
At Lewolang, we are not very superstitious but we believe it’s always fun to learn interesting things about other cultures. If you are curious about your Chinese zodiac sign3 and if you want to learn some new English words that you’ll be able to use to describe people then keep on reading.