Culture: Exploring Chinese New Year

Huilai, China on Chinese New Year

Angela is a 12-year-old girl from China.

She visits her grandmother in Huilai, China for Chinese New Year celebrations.

Exploring Huilai, China

Why is Chinese New Year celebrated?

Chinese New Year is commonly referred to as the Spring Festival (listen 春节 Chūn Jié) in China as it marks the end of Winter (listen 冬天 Dōng tiān) and the beginning of Spring (listen 春天 Chūn tiān).

It is one of the four most important traditional festivals in China and celebrates the beginning of a new year in the Chinese lunar calendar.

You can read the full story of Chinese New Year here.

When is the Chinese New Year?

The traditional Chinese calendar, also called the Chinese lunar calendar (listen 农历 nóng lì), is based on the cycle of the moon (listen 月亮 yuè liang).

Chinese New Year falls on the first day of the new lunar year and, as such, the date changes each year.

It begins on the new moon that appears between late January and February.

The New Year celebrations last fifteen days, ending with the Chinese Lantern Festival.

During this time, you can say these greetings in Mandarin:

  • listen 新年快乐! Xīn nián kuài lè! - Happy New Year!

  • listen 春节快乐! Chūn jiē kuài lè! - Happy Spring Festival!

How do Chinese people celebrate Chinese New Year?

Red envelopes (listen 红包 hóng bāo) filled with money are often given to children during Chinese New Year to pass on the good fortune and blessings for the coming year

Cleaning is another tradition of the Chinese New Year.

This is because, in Mandarin, ‘dust’ (listen chén) is a homophone (same pronunciation but different meaning) for the word for ‘oldness or staleness’ (listen chén).

Paper cutting (listen 剪纸 jiǎn zhǐ) is a form of traditional art in China.

People put them on their windows during Chinese New Year as a way to welcome Spring.

Why not try and make your own paper cuts?

The Spring Festival is a time for family (listen 家庭 jiā tíng) and as such the festival brings with it a travel rush, known as listen 春运 chūn yùn.

As a large part of the Chinese population returns home to reunite with their family, China faces one of the largest movement of humans on Earth.

Chinese paper cuts

What do Chinese people eat for the Chinese New Year?

Food plays a big part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Chinese dumplings

Different foods represent different things in China:

  • Fish (listen ) - surplus (extra or remaining) and fortune

  • Chinese dumplings (listen 饺子 jiǎo zi) - wealth

  • Glutinous rice balls (listen 汤圆 tāng yuán) - family reunion

You can make your own Chinese dumplings by following this recipe.

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