Kung hei fat choy! Saddle up for Chinese New Year
Shrewd and fashionable? Perhaps you were born in the year of the horse. Here’s what you need to know
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) ·