Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is a traditional and important holiday celebrated in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and other Asian countries and communities around the globe. People travel long distances to reunite with family and participate in traditions that occur before, during, and after the New Year.
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Chinese New Year Date
The date for the festival changes every year because it is based on the Chinese lunar calendar (using the phases of the moon). Chinese New Year, the first day of the first lunar month, usually falls somewhere between the middle of January and the middle of February.
A cycle of 12 animal signs are associated with each Chinese calendar year. Each new year starts a new animal’s zodiac year. The animals, in order, are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.
2019 February 5 Pig
2020 January 25 Rat
2021 February 12 Ox
2022 February 1 Tiger
2023 January 22 Rabbit
Chinese New Year Zodiac Animals
There are many books and videos retelling the legendary race that led to the 12 signs. Add story sticks and a printable zodiac fan to engage students during the story and aid in retelling the tale after.
Chinese New Year Traditions
Preparations begin days before. People get ready to welcome the new year by thoroughly cleaning their home – sweeping out the old and getting ready for the new – and buying new clothes. Houses are decorated with red lanterns, couplets, and paper cutouts.
Children receive red envelopes with “lucky money” that they can spend how they choose. The amount is usually an even number and cannot be divided by four. (The number 4 sounds like “death” in Chinese and is considered bad luck.) The bills are new and crisp, and no coins are included. Red envelopes should always be received with both hands and not opened in front of the person who gives the envelope.
Make Your Own! Chalk Academy offers FREE printable red envelopes in simplified and traditional Chinese.
Fun Fact: Red is a popular color for the celebration. In Chinese culture, it is the symbol of happiness, wealth, and good fortune. Red attracts good luck and dispels evil spirits.
The “reunion dinner” on New Year’s Eve is an important time to gather with family and is considered the most important meal of the year. Foods with lucky meanings are included, such as dumplings, sticky rice cake, spring rolls, and fish. After the feast it is common to watch the Spring Festival Gala on tv and set-off fireworks to bring in the new year.
Chinese people believe that their luck for the coming year is based on what they do on the first day of the lunar year. New clothes are worn and wishes of good luck and happiness are shared.
Traditional Chinese dances such as the lion dance and dragon dance are performed during the Spring Festival and are believed to bring good luck. Lion dances are performed by two dancers and the dragon dances are performed by a group of acrobatic dancers. Enjoy this video filmed by Matt Love at Shanghai’s Spring Festival in 2011.
The Lantern Festival, on the fifteenth day of the new year, marks the traditional end to the Chinese New Year celebration. People release glowing lanterns into the sky or set them afloat on rivers or lakes.
Photo Credit Red Envelopes: Deposit Photos Standard License