Chinese New Year: What's The Ado About?

Popularly known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is an important festival celebrated at the changeover of the traditional lunisolar calendar (second new moon of the winter solstice). Gaining significance from the multiple myths and traditional stories surrounding it, this is a time when people take time to honour their deities and ancestors.

Popularly celebrated where Chinese tradition is predominant, this festival starts anywhere between late January and mid-February. It is celebrated for 15 days. This is also the time when Chinese families get together for annual reunion dinner and also join hands in the traditional cleansing of homes. It is believed that this will make way for all the good luck coming for the New Year.

The dates and symbol of each year varies according to the corresponding animal zodiac cycle.2017 is the Year of the Rooster and the festival begins from 28 January. If you have not heard about this festival or want to know more about the festival, here’s all that you need to know!

Why is Chinese New Year celebrated?

Legend has it that the monster named Nian with long head and sharp horns used to appear from the sea on the New year’s Eve, destroy the crop, the village, and eat the people and the livestock.

People would fled from their villages to remote mountains to avoid the monster. An old man who visited the village refused to run away. He wore red clothes on the New Year’s eve, pasted red papers on the door, burnt bamboo to make loud noises and lit candles in front of the house.

The villagers returned to see that their homes were safe and that Nian had not destroyed anything. And ever since, the people followed the instructions of the old man that has come to be followed to the present day. It is one of the important ways to celebrate the arrival of the new year.

Why does the date change?

Every month of the lunar calendar is two days shorter than month in solar calendar. Therefore an extra month is added once in few years to makeup for the lost days.

By chance the zodiac creatures are likewise related moreover to the 10-year cycle of glorious stems. Each of these ten glorious stems is related to the five components of Chinese Astrology – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal (Gold), and Water. Each component is turned once in 2 years with a yin and yang related every year.

Put together, one cycle repeats after 60 years.

The Folklore

It is believed that the period is a time for relaxation before the farm work starts off for the New Year. People pray and wish for good harvest during the festival time.

The Year of the Rooster

The Chinese calendar associates a different animal to the zodiac for each lunar year that repeats in a 12-year cycle. The rooster is the tenth sign in the zodiac cycle. This year actually the Year of the Fire Rooster that has repeated after 60 years. People born in the year of the Rooster are associated with the qualities of hard work, resourcefulness, courage and talent.

How is the festival celebrated?

Chinese New Year is the occasion for family get-together and gift exchanges. Every home, building and street where CNY is celebrated is decorated with red colour papers and lanterns. The colour red is the main auspicious colour. Red colour couplets are pasted on the door sides that is believed to bring prosperity.

Since 2017 is the Rooster year, a lot of rooster imagery in decorations and dolls for children are a common sight. Supplemented with cultural events, one can experience cultural experiences like the dragon dance, lion dance and sometimes even the emperor’s wedding performance.


Red envelopes with money are given mostly to children and seniors. Interestingly, it is also customary not to give red envelopes to working adults except by their employers. The celebrations traditionally end with a eye-catching lantern festival and serving the sweet rice dumpling soup.

Traditional food

During the Chinese New Year, no special food will be served but the following are considered traditional: 

– Dumplings: One of the principle dishes for New Year’s Eve supper

– New Year Cake: Solid cake made with glutinous rice flour together with some sugar

– Tang Yuan: Small balls produced using glutinous rice flour

– LaBa Congee: Mixture of rice, nuts, and beans cooked together

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