Kung hei fat choy! Saddle up for Chinese New Year

Dragon celebrations

Shrewd and fashionable? Perhaps you were born in the year of the horse. Here’s what you need to know

LAST UPDATED AT 10:30 ON Fri 31 Jan 2014

TO many people Chinese New Year is little more than a novelty; a colourful celebration marked by firecrackers and dancing Chinese 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?

Chinese New Year is held each year between 21 January and 20 February. The main celebration will be held this year on 31 January, although the festival will begin a day earlier. The Chinese calendar's origins can be traced back as far as the 14th century BC. This year's celebrations will mark the beginning of the year 4712 on the Chinese calendar.

The exact date of Chinese New Year is determined by the lunisolar cycle. That means the calendar is based on exact astronomical observations of the sun's longitude and moon phases, explains the Time and Date website.

What is Chinese New Year?

New Year 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 beast Nian, a monster which would appear at the end of every year and attack people. Villagers worked out that loud noise, bright lights and the colour red kept Nian at bay, and so the seeds of Chinese New Year celebrations were sown.

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 celebrations 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. The festival begins on 30 January and the main event will be a huge parade through Chinatown and the West End on Sunday 2 February. There are similar celebrations in Chinatowns in cities around the world.

Which animal represents 2014?

The Chinese year is linked directly to the Chinese Zodiac – a list of 12 animals representing different years and 2014 will be the year of the horse. It is believed that someone born in a particular year will share similar attributes to the animal with which that year is associated.

Here's a full list of the animals and the most recent years with which they're associated, courtesy of the BBC.

Rat - February 19, 1996 | February 7, 2008

Ox - February 7, 1997 | January 26, 2009

Tiger - January 28, 1998 | February 14, 2010

Rabbit - February 16, 1999 | February 3, 2011

Dragon - February 5, 2000 | January 23, 2012

Snake - January 24, 2001 | February 10, 2013

Horse - February 12, 2002 | January 31, 2014

Goat - February 1, 2003 | February 19, 2015

Monkey - January 22, 2004 | February 8, 2016

Rooster - February 9, 2005 | January 28, 2017

Dog - January 29, 2006 | February 16, 2018

Pig - February 18, 2007 | February 5, 2019

What if I'm a horse?

People born in the year of the horse tend to be astute, fashionable and brimming with self-confidence. However, they also like to show-off, can be self-centred and are always at risk of falling in love too easily.

That said, if you are a horse, you're in good company, reports The Guardian. Notable stallions and mares include:

Oscar-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence
Mongol ruler, Genghis Khan
Billionaire philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey
Ear-biting boxer, Mike Tyson 
The Beatles
rocker, Paul McCartney
First man on the moon, Neil Armstrong
Soul legend, Aretha Franklin
Flemish master painter, Rembrandt

How is it celebrated?

In China, New Year traditions vary depending on the region, although there are a number of customs that remain at the heart of all Chinese New Year celebrations. 


Out with the old and in with the new. In the run up to New Year, houses are cleaned top to bottom. Some Chinese people take a bath with pomelo leaves (a citrus fruit native to South East Asia) as it's believed to enhance prosperity for the coming year. It is also traditional not to wash your hair during the initial days of New Year as it risks washing out any newly acquired prosperity.


Doorways, windows and various other parts of houses are decorated with red ribbons and banners to ward off evil. It is also customary to put on brand new red clothes – red being a colour associated with good luck - in the early hours of New Year's Day as it is thought to ward off evil and symbolises a new start.

New Year's Eve meal

Chinese New Year is a time for families to reunite and the New Year's Eve meal is the most important of the year. Dumplings and fish are served as symbols of prosperity and children receive gifts, including envelopes filled with money.


It wouldn't be Chinese New Year without fireworks and fire-crackers. Traditionally they are set off on New Year's Eve in order to bid farewell to the old year and usher in the new.

Festival of the Lanterns

The 15th day of the festival is known as the Festival of the Lanterns. It marks the last day of the lunar year and the end of all Chinese New Year celebrations. Red paper lanterns of all shapes and sizes are hung in streets and from almost all houses. Children often make their own lanterns in order to light the way as they stroll through the streets with friends and family. Many people write poems on the lanterns, while others inscribe riddles for others to solve in exchange for small gifts.

Kung hei fat choy!  (gong-hey-faat-choy) · 

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Not only Chinese people who will celebrate, but also people/countries influenced by Chinese culture or used to use Chinese calendar such as Korea and Vietnam.

Mandarin Chinese rather than the Cantonese dialect would be a better representation. It is widely used in Mainland China, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.

Thus - Gung Hai Fat Choi! (gong-hey-faat-choy) should be corrected t0 - Gong Xi Fa Cai (gong-xi-faa-caai)

A few wrong bits and pieces in this article (but it's a good article!) Red envelopes are given on New Years morning to unmarried children and adolescents, and not on CNY eve.

Was this article rushed, by any chance?
Besides the numerous factual mistakes already flagged,
it's 'they're associated' not 'their associated'.

My Filipino assistant tells me they don't celebrate Chinese new year in the Philippines, I didn't think they did. Maybe in Manila's chinatown, but that's not such a large China town. I suspect, like UK, the celebrations are nothing compared to China itself. Here in UK (my wife is Chinese), people won't take the day of work, they'll wait until the weekend before celebrating, and the whole celebrations continue for 15 days.

I was in China last year for new year. Nanning, almost everywhere closed as city dwellers return to the country side to be with family. The largest movement of people in the world occurs at new year - I had to get from Canton to Nanning, 400 miles, I was unable to get a flight, there was a 2-3 day queue for a train, but luckily I got a bus at 5am which took 12 hours!

Red envelopes aren't just for children. They're given to everyone, and despite the fact I'm a middle-age foreigner, even relatives that had never met me before were giving me red envelopes, even if only 1 or 2 yuan, it's a symbol and very important. We gave not only to children but every relative, it's expected. The amount of money isn't so important.

Fireworks were going off from 6am to midnight every single day I was in China, almost 2 weeks, days before and after new year. New years eve was the biggest fireworks show in the world! I mean, I've seen Disney's displays, they were nothing by comparison! The smell, the noise, incredible. In villages during the day I was thinking to myself that all the fire crackers going off must be what being in a war zone sounds like!

it is supposed to be CNY eve. know your culture and root well before commenting

Common guys don't be too fussy/!!
Thanks for the great article on Chinese New Year. Some people likes to be negative about everything.

i like the chinese year becuase the are the animles and i am a monkey

i eat heap

erm...the majority only give out hong bao from New Year's Day onwards

It's LUNAR New Year because they follow the Lunar Calendar ... not Chinese New Year!

Great, it's so complete to elucidate! and thanks for Don explaining what's meaning of the title, which help me to know it's congratulation to make a fortune. for me as a chinese just speaking mandarin

The person who wrote this article needs to get his/her head checked. When you're mentioning famous people who were born in the year of the horse, you're saying "Flemish master painter Rembrandt" - He wasn't Flemish, he was bloody dutch you moron!
-Susanne, a dutchie, who is quite insulted now.
ps Get your facts right The Week people! More comments from other people here as well...

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