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According to Chinese legend, the twelve animals quarrelled one day as to who was the head the cycle of years. The gods were asked to decide and they held a contest: whoever was to reach the opposite bank of the river would be first, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their finish.

  • All the twelve animals gathered at the river bank and jumped in. Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. As the ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off the ox's back, and won the race. The pig, who was very lazy, ended up last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, and the pig last.

What is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is a holiday that celebrates the beginning of a new year according to the lunar calendar. It is considered to be one of the most important holidays for Chinese families. So no matter how far away people are, they will try their best to go home and spend the festival with their families.

what is nian
What is “nian”?

A “Nian” is a terrible monster that sleeps away on the bottom of the ocean. It awakens once a year, crawling onto land and devouring everything in sight. Each year, villagers gather their belongings and hide in the mountains just before the monster make its appearance. Old Grandma Ding and her young grandchild are too weak to run far, so they decide to stay home with their door and windows shut tight. They share their food with an old beggar who arrives at their doorstep. He shows his gratitude by scaring the Nian away from their house with fire and loud noises. It turns out that this fierce monster is afraid of these things!

what is lunar calendar
What is lunar calendar?
  • The Chinese Lunar Calendar, dating back more than 5000 years ago, is based on the cycles of the moon, (the time the moon takes to go around the earth). It is constructed in a different fashion than the Western solar calendar.
  • The date of Chinese New Year changes every year (The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to “catch up” with the solar calendar in the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years).
  • The Chinese New Year celebration, otherwise known as the “Spring Festival” lasts for fifteen days.
chun jie house cleaning

To clean houses on the New Year Even is a

very old custom dating back to thousands

of years ago. The dust is traditionally

associated with “old” so cleaning their

houses and sweeping the dust mean to bid

farewell to the “old” and usher in the “new”. Days before the New Year, Chinese families clean their houses, sweeping the floor, washing daily things, cleaning the spider webs and dredging the ditches. People do all these things happily in the hope of a good coming year.



One of the house decorations is to post

Chun lian (couplets) on doors. On the

Spring Festival couplets, good wishes

are expressed. New Year couplets are

usually posted in pairs as even numbers

are associated with good luck and

auspiciousness in Chinese culture. People

in north China are used to posting paper-cut on their windows. When sticking the window decoration paper-cuts, people paste on the door large red Chinese character "福". A red "福" means good luck and fortune...



Chun jie is a time for family reunion. The New Year's Feast is "a must" banquet with all the family members getting together. The food eaten on the New Year Even banquet varies according to regions. In south China, It is customary to eat "nian gao" (New Year cake made of glutinous rice flour) because as a homophone, nian gao means "higher and higher every year". In the north, a traditional dish for the feast is "Jiao zi" or dumplings shaped like a crescent moon.



Lighting Firecrackers used to be one of the most important customs in the Spring Festival celebration. However, concerning the danger and the negative noises that lighting firecrackers may bring, the government has banned this practice in many major cities. But people in small towns and rural areas still hold to

this traditional celebration. Right as the

clock strike 12 o'clock midnight of New

Year's Eve, cities and towns are lit up with

the glitter from fireworks, and the sound

can be deafening. Families stay up for this

joyful moment and kids with firecrackers.



“Shou sui” means to stay up late or all night on New Year's Eve. It occurs when members of the family gather around throughout the night after the reunion dinner and reminisce about the year that has passed while welcoming the year that

has arrived. Some believe that

children who Shou sui will increase

the longevity of the parents.



The first bell ringing is the symbol of

Chinese New Year. Chinese people like to

go to a large squares where there are

huge bells are set up on New Year’s Eve.

As the New Year approaches they count

down and celebrate together. The people

believe that the ringing of huge bell can

drive all the bad luck away and bring the fortune to them. In recent years, some people have begun going to mountain temples to wait for the first ringing. Han shan Temple in Suzhou, is very famous temple for its first ringing of the bell to herald Chinese New Year...



On the first day of the New Year or shortly thereafter, everybody wears new clothes and greets relatives and friends with bows and Gongxi (congratulations), wishing each other good luck, happiness during the new year. In Chinese villages, some villagers may have hundreds of relatives so they have to spend more than two weeks visiting their relatives.On the first day of the new year, it’s customary for the younger generations to visit the elders, wishing them healthy and longevity.



It is the money given to kids from their

parents and grandparents as New Year

gift. The money is believed to bring good

luck, ward off monsters; hence the name

"lucky money". Parents and grandparents

first put money in small, especially-made red envelopes and give the red envelopes to their kids after the New Year's Feast or when they come to visit them on the New Year. They choose to put the money in red envelopes because Chinese people think red is a lucky color. They want to give their children both lucky money and lucky color.