A New Lunar Year
As we approach a new lunar year in the Chinese calendar, the Chinese themselves are busy preparing for the biggest event of the year: the Chinese New Year.
While there are activities and traditions running throughout the month of January, the real celebrations fall from the eve before New Chinese Year's Day and subsequently run into fifteen days of festivities: the Spring Festival.
Each year, the date of the Chinese New Year varies in alignment with the moon phases. It also marks the beginning of the astrological year prescribed by the Chinese zodiac. Moving in a twelve year cycle, each year is represented by an animal and its attributes. Your own is determined by the year in which you were born and where this falls within the cycle.
The Chinese New Year is the biggest event within the calendar. So many people are on the move to wish their loved ones and families well that it is reputed as being the largest mass migration on earth compared to any other time in the year.
2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971
Year of the Rooster
Chinese New Year 2017 marks the year of the Rooster. The rooster itself is regarded as a creature that is observant, courageous, resourceful and talented, and so it follows that these are the traits attributed to those born in a rooster year.
According to Chinese astrology though, the year of your own birth sign is one set to be fraught with bad luck. A warning to all roosters, therefore, to take care and to make the most of the challenges they are alleged to face with a positive disposition; challenges can be as difficult as they can be rewarding.
It is also said that that by wearing something red that has been passed to you by an elder - such as a necklace, bracelet, or anklet - can help you manoeuvre the year more positively, warding off the bad luck.
Chinese New Year Traditions
There are so many traditions around Chinese New Year, it is hard to quantify just how many different things the Chinese do to celebrate - each family will perform their traditions with their own style or way. It is the family though, that centres at the very heart of the festivities. If one thing were to be said for Chinese New Year traditions, it would be that it is an opportunity to reunite generations of family around a table to wish one another a bright and prosperous new year.
Here are just some of the core things families and friends will share together to see in a new lunar year.
Food is the very heart of celebrations and is served in the abundance that the Chinese would wish to continue with into the new year. There are core foods that each represent a different quality. Fish, for example, marks an increase in prosperity; dumplings are reputed to bring wealth; the longer your noodles, the more they serve to symbolise happiness and longevity; Tangyuan (sweet rice balls) are enjoyed to mark family togetherness; and 'Good Fortune Fruit' will bring you fullness and wealth.
Hongbao are small red envelopes exchanged among loved ones, and usually containing money as a gift. It is the colour red, however, that truly holds meaning (as opposed to the cash inside). Red, it is said, is a symbol of energy, happiness and good luck. The amount within the envelope will vary according to your age and position within the family.
It is quite common these days for the Chinese to send Hongbao via digital apps showing that, while the tradition hasn't changed, the means of technology has.
Should you wish to make a greeting of happiness or of joy to your loved ones at Chinese New Year, the most popular expression is:
新年好 / 新年好 (Xīnnián hǎo) 'New Year goodness'
In Mandarin: /sshin-nyen haoww/
In Cantonese: /sen-nin haow/
Lion dances, dragon dances, the hanging of lanterns and firecrackers are just some of the ways in which the Chinese celebrate the dawn of a New Year. Three small pops of a firecracker see out the old year, with three much louder firecrackers announcing the new.
Many will head to their temple to pray for blessings and on the fifteenth night, lanterns will be lit and carried in the street as a procession. Candles will surround doorways to guide wayward spirits home. This is known as the Lantern Festival and the final date in the spring festival.
Some Great Chinese Teas For Sharing
Jasmine Silver Needle
Delicate and soothing, but steeped in Chinese culture, the downy buds of our Jasmine Silver Needle white tea are picked early in the spring and are fragranced lightly with jasmine.
Our Yunnan Gold black tea boasts caramel sweetness, with a smooth, long-lasting finish of spice: ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
The heart of the Gong Fu ceremony, this Wuyi Oolong is rich, smooth and autumnal, with notes of rose and peach.