Chinese New Year is celebrated with great pomp in China and among Asian communities worldwide. It is an annual celebration where people gather together to celebrate new beginnings. The traditional Chinese New Year celebrations typically last 15 days, beginning in late January or early February.
For 2024, the Chinese New Year will begin on February 10. The celebration includes various customs and traditions steeped in legend and symbolism. So, if you want to educate your kids or grandkids about Chinese New Year, share these interesting facts with them. Your kids will be thrilled to learn about these CNY facts.
1. Origin of Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year has been celebrated in China for over 3500 years. Although its exact history is unknown, some believe the festival originated in the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC). At that time, people held sacrificial ceremonies in honor of gods and ancestors at the beginning or the end of each year.
However, the term Nian (‘year’) first appeared in the Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BC). It was during the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) when the date of the festival was fixed for the people. The Chinese New Year celebration was later changed from a religious ceremony to social entertainment during the Wei and Jin dynasties. That is when people started gathering together at home to celebrate the occasion.
2. The story behind the Chinese New Year
There are many stories about how and why Chinese New Year was celebrated. The most famous myth is about a monster named Nian. As per the lore, Nian ate livestock and crops on the eve of the traditional New Year. Upon the suggestion of a monk, villagers made loud noises and hung red paper cutouts over their doors to keep Nian away. The suggestion worked, and eventually, Nian was defeated. The day on which Nian was defeated became the start of the 15-day-long Chinese New Year celebration.
3. Other names of Chinese New Year
One of the most interesting facts is that Chinese New Year is also called Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. It symbolizes the start of a new life. The date of the Lunar New Year is calculated according to the lunar calendar. The festival begins on the date of the new moon, which usually appears between January 21 and February 20, and ends 15 days later on the evening of the full moon.
4. What happens on Chinese New Year
Almost a quarter of the world’s population celebrates the festival. Typically, before the New Year, people will deep clean their homes, sweeping away last year’s bad luck and making room for good luck. They also dress up in new clothes to ring in the upcoming year.
Families from far away will gather for a customary reunion dinner on the traditional New Year’s Eve. It is called Chunyun or Spring Migration. The reunion dinner will include several dishes that bring good luck, including dumplings, fish, sweet rice balls, noodles, spring rolls, glutinous rice cake, and fruits.
Another important tradition that is followed is the exchange of gifts. The gifts are usually only given to kids by senior family members of the house. The most common gift includes a red envelope (since it’s a lucky color) containing money. However, the monetary value should never have the number four as it is considered bad luck.
Apart from this, lion dances and dragon dances are also performed to bring prosperity and good luck in the upcoming year. To mark the end of the Lunar New Year, on the 15th day, people celebrate the Lantern Festival, where they release glowing lanterns into the sky or onto rivers or the sea.
5. Chinese New Year is named after animals
Another interesting fact is that each year is named after an animal based on the Chinese Zodiac cycle. The cycle features 12 animals: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. 2024 is the Year of the Dragon, also known as Loong, and is the fifth animal in the 12-year cycle.
We bet your kids will be fascinated by these interesting facts about the Chinese New Year. So, share the facts with them and get them acquainted with the significance of CNY. Also, be patient with your little ones, as they might have several questions about the legends. It would be best if you familiarized yourself with all the myths and traditions to provide them with the best answers.