Chinese New Year 2016: how to celebrate
Everything you need to know to welcome in the year of the monkey in style
A blast of freezing weather and snow across eastern and central China has millions of travellers facing chaos as they try to get home for New Year festivities. More than 100,000 people crammed inside the busy Guangzhou station, in southern China, after 23 trains were delayed due to poor weather, reports The Guardian. Delays and cancellations have also hit other train stations and airports.
To many Westerners, Chinese New Year is a colourful celebration marked by firecrackers and dancing dragons. But scratch the surface of what is one of China's oldest festivals and you will find much more than food and festivities.
When is it?
Festivities begin on the first day of the complex Chinese lunisolar calendar, which stretches back to the 14th century BC. This date always falls between 21 January and 20 February, with the main celebration this year taking place on 8 February. Traditionally, the festival lasts for 15 days but today, celebrations are usually concentrated into the first three days.
What is Chinese New Year?
New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is one of China's oldest festivals. It marks the beginning of a new year and a new agricultural season and is considered a time for loved ones to reunite and take part in traditions designed to bring good fortune for the next 12 months.
The noise and colour come from one of the legends associated with the celebrations - that of the monster Nian, which would appear at the end of every year and attack people. Villagers discovered that loud noise, bright lights and the colour red kept the beast at bay and so the seeds of Chinese New Year celebrations were sown.
In Chinese towns and Chinatowns alike, the streets are decorated with bright red lanterns, while children receive red envelopes containing money. Workers may also be given a special red pay packet containing a bonus.
Where is it celebrated?
The largest celebrations take place in China, naturally, although countries with a large Chinese population also mark the day. The biggest festivals outside of mainland China are in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The largest celebration outside Asia takes place in London's Chinatown, where this year, the main event will be a huge parade on 14 February, with musicians and performers accompanying the traditional dancing dragons and lions through the capital. Street stalls and demonstrations will showcase the best of Chinese food, art and culture, while a stage in Trafalgar Square will welcome an array of dancers, singers and acrobats.
Which animal represents 2016?
The year is linked directly to the Chinese zodiac – a list of 12 animals - and 2016 will be the year of the monkey.
It is believed that someone born in a particular year will share similar attributes to its animal, so those born in the year of the monkey are said to be mischievous, inquisitive and cunning. Each year is also associated with one of five elements – metal, water, fire, earth and wood – which modify the traits of those born under them. For instance, the "metal monkey" is firm and resolute to the point of stubbornness, while a "water monkey" is softer and more sensitive. Babies born after new year 2016 will be "fire monkeys" - daring, dynamic and competitive, sometimes to extremes.
Here's a full list of the animals and the start of the most recent years with which they're associated.
Rat – 19 February, 1996 and 7 February, 2008
Ox – 7 February, 1997 and 26 January, 2009
Tiger – 28 January, 1998 and 14 February, 2010
Rabbit – 16 February, 1999 and 3 February, 2011
Dragon – 5 February, 2000 and 23 January, 2012
Snake – 24 January, 2001 and 10 February, 2013
Horse – 12 February, 2002 and 31 January, 2014
Goat/Sheep – 1 February, 2003 and 19 February, 2015
Monkey – 22 January, 2004 and 8 February, 2016
Rooster - 9 February, 2005 and 28 January, 2017
Dog – 29 January, 2006 and 16 February, 2018
Pig – 18 February, 2007 and 5 February, 2019