READY FOR CHINESE NEW YEAR
Here are 9 interesting facts that some people might have forgotten about Chinese New Year.
- It is also known as the Spring Festival.
In China, you’ll hear it being called ‘chunjie’, or the Spring Festival. It’s still very wintry, but the holiday marks the end of the coldest days. People welcome spring and what it brings along: planting and harvests, new beginnings and fresh starts.
- It is a day for fighting off monsters.
According to one legend, there was a monster named ‘Nian’. It would come about every New Year’s Eve. Most people would hide in their homes – but one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. So now people stay up on Chinese New Year’s Eve and set off firecrackers at midnight to fight off the monsters. In the morning, firecrackers are used again to welcome the New Year and good luck. If you’re in China during this time, you’ll probably be able to hear and see the explosions for at least 3 nights in the row (and it can go on for weeks).
- It causes the largest human migration in the world.
The most important part of Chinese New Year is the family reunion. Everyone should come back home for the New Year’s Eve dinner, but since in modern China, most elderly parents live in rural villages while their children work in the cities. The migration back home and to go on vacation is called ‘chunyun’, or Spring Migration. Even on normal days, subways are jammed pack with people just barely squishing past the door, so imagine the intensity of the ‘chunyun’. Plus, the earliest you can buy train tickets is 60 days before. It leads to a mad rush of literally fighting for tickets. In 2015, statistics showed that around 1,000 tickets were sold each second.
- It has a number of taboos.
Showering isn’t allowed New Year’s Day. Sweeping and throwing out garbage isn’t allowed before the 5th. This is to make sure you don’t wash away the good luck! On the other hand, there’s a day before the Spring Festival dedicated to cleaning. This day is to sweep the bad luck away and make room for the good. What else is taboo during Chinese New Year? Hair cutting. Using scissors, knives and other sharp things. Most hair salons are closed during the entirety of Chinese New Year because hair cutting is taboo. It is also taboo to argue, any form of swearing or saying unlucky words (such as “death” and “sickness”). It I taboo to break things such ceramics or glass and advised not to take medicine or going to the doctor.
- It is best not to visit the wife’s family.
Traditionally, multiple generations live together. The bride moves into the groom’s home after marriage. And, of course, she will celebrate Chinese New Year with her in-laws. Returning to her parents on New Year’s Day means that there are marriage problems and may also bring bad luck to the entire family. The couple should visit the wife’s family on the 2nd day. They’d bring their children, as well as a modest gift (because it’s the thought that counts).
- There’s wine specifically for the Spring Festival
Chinese people love drinking. There’s a saying that there’s no manners and/or etiquette without wine – this means that you need to have wine for every ceremony, festival or important dinner. There’s wine for engagement dinners, weddings, birthdays… and of course, the Spring Festival. With such a rich wine culture, it’s no surprise that there is a bunch of drinking games you play. However, it’s not all fun and games. When you’re eating with someone older than you, as is the case with New Year’s dinners, you need to follow strict toasting etiquette rules. They include the order of toasts, seating, how you hold the wine glass etc. etc. To learn more read our post on Chinese New Year’s drinks and etiquette.
- Zodiac animal particulars.
Chinese New Year zodiac animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig and they play a much bigger role than the zodiacs in Western cultures. Your animal can decide your career, health and relationship success. Make sure you find out what zodiac animal you are! However, your ‘benming’ year – which is the year of your zodiac animal – is the unluckiest year for you. There are multiple explanations for this, but the Chinese believe that children can easily be taken by demons and your zodiac year is your rebirth year
- You grow 1 year older.
In China, you have a “real” age and a “fake” nominal age. The real age is the one we all know about. You grow one year older on your birthday. The nominal age though, increases with the Spring Festival. This was the age most people went with until recent times. But it’s still common nowadays, or used interchangeably. If you’re particular about it, make sure you ask!
- Gift-giving No-Nos…
It was mentioned above that you should bring gifts when paying visits. It’s the thought that counts, but some gifts are forbidden. Clocks are the worst gifts. Gifting clocks is a homophone of ‘paying one’s last respects’. ‘Splitting pears’ is also a homophone of ‘separation’. For example, in Mandarin, “apple” is pronounced píng guǒ, but in Shanghainese it sounds like “passed away from sickness.” These no-nos don’t just apply to the Spring Festival by the way, so keep it in the back of your mind!
Enjoy the festivities.