This Saturday, 28th January, marks the start of Chinese New Year - the most important holiday for the Chinese and one fifth of the world’s population.
Here are some top 10 facts on the lunisolar Chinese calendar and how it’s celebrated.
1) 1/5 OF THE WORLD'S POPULATION CELEBRATE IT
China, Hong Kong and Macau and nine other Asian countries have public holidays on Chinese New Year, including South Korea, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, North Korea, Singapore and Brunei.
2) THIS YEAR IS THE YEAR OF THE ROOSTER
Many Chinese still believe in astrology and other New Year superstitions and it is a very old custom to name the years by one of 12 animals in the zodiac cycle which each have unique characteristics. The Rooster is said to be honest, energetic, intelligent, flamboyant, flexible, diverse and confident.
3) PEOPLE FOCUS ON PRIORITIES
Making amends, reconciling with people, avoiding offence, and reestablishing old ties are important at Chinese New Year. They buy and wear new clothes, give gifts, and clean the house.
4) CHINESE FAMILIES WILL GATHER TO EAT AT HOME
The majority of the Chinese eat New Year’s Eve dinner at home with all their family. Traditional foods eaten include dumplings, New Year cake, Tang Yuan and LaBa Congee.
It's a tradition to eat dumplings on Chinese New Year's Eve
5) CHINESE NEW YEAR'S DAY TABOOS
It is considered that only the poor eat porridge for breakfast so this is a bad omen. An empty rice jar can also cause anxiety as there’s lots of home cooking to be done during the New Year period.
6) IT'S KNOWN AS THE SPRING FESTIVAL
The ‘Start of Spring’ (4th-18th February) marks the end of the coldest part of winter and the Chinese traditionally look forward to the beginning of spring from this point.
7) BILLIONS OF RED ENVELOPES WILL BE EXCHANGED
As a special New Year bonus, older generations exchange money in red envelopes with younger generations, from bosses to employees, and from leaders to underlings.
8) A POPULAR CHINESE NEW YEAR GREETING
To wish a happy New Year, popular greetings include 新年好 / 新年好 (Xīnnián hǎo) which translates to 'New Year goodness!' In Mandarin: /sshin-nyen haoww/ In Cantonese: /sen-nin haow/.
9) IT'S BIG IN LONDON!
On Sunday 29th January London is set to host the biggest celebrations outside of Asia. The occasion will be marked in London’s Chinatown, where thousands are expected to take part in a traditional parade.
10) FAMOUS PEOPLE BORN UNDER THE ROOSTER SIGN
Rudyard Kipling, Benjamin Franklin, Prince Philip, Nancy Reagan, Joan Collins, Dolly Parton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Beyonce, Eric Clapton, Yoko Ono.
TEACHING CHILDREN ABOUT CHINESE NEW YEAR
This week I was delighted to be asked to give a talk at my daughter’s primary school, Kirkroyds Infant School in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, to tie in with their work around Chinese New Year.
Stuart at the school workshop
In the lesson, I taught them how to cook oriental food including inari sushi, yaki onigiri and miso soup. We also had a crash course on how to use chopsticks. It was great to share my knowledge of oriental cuisine and culture with the children who thoroughly enjoyed it.