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Week 5, (week starting 1st February): Chinese New Year

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Chinese New Year for children...


What is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is the most important of the Chinese holidays, and is a time of feasting with the family, celebration, fireworks and gift-giving. It is a 15-day holiday, beginning on the first day of a new moon and ending with the full moon on the day of the Lantern Festival.

The Chinese calendar is based on the lunar year, so the date of Chinese New Year changes every year.


The Chinese calendar follows a 12-year pattern with each year named after an animal. There are various stories which explain this. The simplest is that Buddha (or the Jade Emperor) invited all of the animals to join him for a New Year celebration, but only 12 animals turned up.


To reward the animals that did come, Buddha named a year after each of them in the order that they arrived, starting with the Rat, followed by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat (or Sheep), Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.


Depending on the year you are born, you are believed to have the various character traits of that year's animal. 



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Top 10 facts

  1. Before the start of the festivities, Chinese people spring clean their houses to sweep away any bad luck.
  2. On New Year's Eve, all brooms, dustpan and brushes are put away so that good luck can’t be swept away. Houses are decorated with paper scrolls with good luck phrases such as 'Happiness' and 'Wealth'.
  3. People will stay up until midnight setting off fireworks to frighten away evil spirits. Red symbolises fire which will scare away evil spirits, so people dress head to foot in new red clothing.
  4. Children receive red envelopes full of money instead of wrapped gifts that other nationalities give at Christmas. The amount they receive is usually an even number but the amount cannot be divisible by four. In Chinese, the number 4 means death!
  5. Everyone goes home for the Chinese New Year celebrations, if they can. The period just before the Chinese New Year, called ‘chunyun’, is the busiest travel time of the entire year. All across China and beyond, you’ll find people on their way home to spend this time with their families.
  6. Lion and dragon dances are common during the Chinese New Year and it is believed that the loud drumming and clashing of cymbals will chase away bad luck and evil spirits.
  7. Some Chinese believe you should not wash your hair on the first day of the Chinese New Year as you would be washing away your good luck for the New Year.
  8. To make sure you're not ridden with debt in the New Year, the Chinese believe that all outstanding bills and monies owed to friends and family members should be paid off before the Chinese New Year.
  9. The Chinese believe that crying and wailing on the first day of the Chinese New Year will result in sad times for the remainder of the year. It is also frowned upon to start the New Year by swearing, getting upset or getting angry.
  10. White or black clothing are often avoided during the festivities as they represent the traditional colours of mourning for Chinese.