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Eye of the Tiger

09 Feb 2022

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Chinese New Year 2022 falls on Tuesday 1st February and celebrations last for up to 16 days, culminating with the Lantern Festival on February 15th.

2022 is the Year of the Tiger and the celebrations mark the transition between zodiac signs: 2021 was the Year of the Ox.

Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival. It remains very wintry in China but the holiday marks the beginning of the end of the coldest days. People welcome the spring and what it brings: planting, harvests, new beginning and fresh starts.

Most people don’t know that there is no actual set date for the Chinese New Year. The date is determined by the Lunar calendar. Even though China now uses the Gregorian calendar like the rest of the world, the Lunar calendar is still really important. Some people even calculate their birthdays and ages according to the lunar calendar too!

The Spring Festival was traditionally a time to pray to gods for a good planting and harvest season and also for fighting off monsters! According to one legend, a monster named Nian would arrive every New Year’s Eve. Most people would hide in fear but one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. That’s why firecrackers are a crucial part of the celebrations.

Talking of fireworks, on Chinese New Year’s Eve, the most fireworks in the whole world are set off on that one single night! Families also burn fake paper money and printed gold bars on honour of they deceased loved ones. They believe the offerings will bring fortune and good luck to their ancestors in the afterlife.

The Spring Festival also causes the largest human migration in the world. Because of the importance of the celebration, everyone should come back home to their families in China for the New Year’s Eve dinner. In 2015, statistics showed that around 1000 train tickets per second were bought by people trying to get home.

On New Year’s Day showering or throwing out the rubbish is not allowed. It’s thought that washing or cleaning on that day will wash away good luck. In contrast, the day before Spring Festival is dedicated to cleaning. This is to sweep away the bad luck to make way for good luck! It’s also taboo to cut your hair, use scissors or knives, to argue or swear, to say ‘unlucky’ words such as ‘death’ and ‘sickness’ and to break things.

It’s traditional for children to receive gifts of ‘lucky money’ in small red envelopes though these days most people use the digital equivalent on their phone or computer.

Food is of utmost importance. Dumplings must be eaten every day, there’s a wine that is specifically for the festival and many Chinese desserts have special meanings. For example a cake called ‘Fa Gao’ is dyed in festival colours and the word ‘Fa’ comes from ‘Fa Cai’ which is Chinese for ‘get rich’!

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