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Chinese New Year: Origin and traditions

Chinese New Year: Origin and traditions

  • The Chinese New Year is the most important celebration in China. 2021 is the year of the Ox, learn about its origin and traditions.
Chinese New Year Origin and traditions

On February 12th, 2021 Chinese New Year begins, the year of the Ox. The most important festival in China ends 2020; the year of the rat. Considered a time to honor deities, ancestors, and to be with family; Due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions, this New Year will be different.

China, Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and The Philippines celebrate the Chinese New Year. It is also celebrated in Chinatowns and Asian homes around the world.

Interesting facts about the Chinese New Year

What is the origin of the Chinese New Year?

There are different versions about its origins, date to venerate divinities and ancestors. In another version related to agriculture, they prayed for a good harvest for the coming year. It also refers to Nian, a dragon that appeared in the villages on the night of the lunar old year devouring children and livestock to satisfy his appetite.

Which animal in the Chinese horoscope corresponds to 2021?

Ox, the second animal in the Chinese horoscope.

When is the Chinese New Year Celebrated?

This New Year falls on February 12th. The year in China begins with the second moon after the winter solstice. Dates change every year, always in the period from January 21 to February 20.

How Chinese New Year is celebrated?

They celebrate Chinese New Year between festivals, typical food, fireworks, decoration, and gifts or «Hong Baos»; in family union and millenary traditions honoring their ancestors.

What do they typically eat on Chinese New Year?

Fish, ravioli, spring rolls, and rice cake represent good luck and wealth.

Which countries celebrate the Chinese New Year?

China, Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and the Philippines celebrate the Chinese New Year. They also celebrate it in Chinatowns and Asian homes around the world.

Chinese New Year Origin

In China, known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. There are different versions about its origin, a date to venerate divinities and ancestors.

Chinese New Year Origin001

The mythological version makes reference to Nian; a dragon that appeared in the villages the last night of the year to devour children and cattle, to satisfy his appetite.

To scare it away, they made a lot of noise and wielded red objects, traditions that remain to this day. Currently, Nian (年) is the Chinese word for year, referring to this mythological beast.

Another version is related to agriculture. Families plan the new year, praying for a good harvest. In the past, they prayed to the God of the Sun at the end of winter.

2021: Year of the Ox, second animal in the Chinese horoscope.

Legend says that twelve animals went to see Buddha before leaving off to earth. As a reward, he assigned a year of the zodiac cycle to each animal.

Chinese Zodiac
Chinese Zodiac

First was the rat, followed by the Ox; then Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

Each year has a zodiacal animal, influencing one’s fortune. Their characteristics are defined by their Chinese horoscope.

The Chinese lunar calendar is the longest chronological record in history since 2,637 BC. First introduced zodiacal cycle represented by 12 years, 12 different animals. A complete cycle has 60 years; We are currently in cycle 78, which began in 1984 and will end in February 2044.

When is the Chinese New Year celebrated?

The Chinese New Year is ruled by the lunar calendar beginning with the second moon after the winter solstice. Its date varies every new year, always between January 21st to February 20th.

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Traditionally celebrated for 16 days, from New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival (February 26, 2021). Chinese holidays: February 11-17; and companies stop their activities for almost a month.

The Chinese New Year celebrations

In China, they celebrate it between festivals, family union, and ancient traditions honoring their ancestors.

The Chinese New Year celebrations001


Preparations start days before. First, they clean their houses, symbolizing not to carry misfortunes from the previous year. At midnight the Chinese New Year celebration begins. Open doors and windows at home to bring out the negative, attracting new energy.

Chinese don’t do laundry or cleaning in the previous days; to maintain the good fortune coming through the home. The past is not discussed and children are not punished to not attract bad luck.

Reunion dinner

The most ancient and important tradition of the Chinese New Year is the reunion dinner. Eat fish, ravioli, spring rolls, and rice cake, which represent good luck and riches. Pray to their ancestors before reuniting as a family to taste these delicious dishes.

Red decorations

Red is the protagonist during the Chinese New Year celebrations. Its special properties represent vitality, celebration, good fortune, prosperity, among others. People wear red clothes, and also write their resolutions on papers of the same color.

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During the Chinese New Year; they add traditional red decorations to attract abundance. Red lanterns or emblems with the phrase “good fortune for the New Year”. Streets are filled with flags, couplets adorn the doors in every home, and offer figurines of the animal of the new year.

Gifts and «Hong Baos»

During the Chinese New Year, people usually give gifts to children and the elderly. This tradition has evolved into red envelopes or «Hong Baos». It consists of giving away red envelopes with money to attract good luck and fortune.

Currently, with technology, people send Hong Baos via Wechat or Alipay. In companies are send to colleagues or collaborators through WeChat, thanking and wishing good luck for the upcoming new year.


Fireworks have a very special meaning. In the past, the Chinese lit bamboo to scare away evil spirits. This tradition evolved into the typical strip of firecrackers that only explode making noise. Firecrackers are banned in some cities due to accidents and noise pollution.

Currently, it is a tradition to launch fireworks to make a great show of lights and colors.

Lantern festival

It welcomes spring and ends the Chinese New Year celebrations. This celebration consists of lighting lanterns to admire with the full moon; fixed, floating, flying, of all kinds of figures. Some children put riddles in them for others to guess; the activity is accompanied by the dragon and lion dance through the Asian streets.

Will there be celebrations in 2021?

In early 2021, China reported more cases of COVID-19. Preventive measures increased restricting mobility between provinces.

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Celebration for Chinese New Year will be different depending on the risk in each city, many people will not return home for family celebrations. Lower risk areas will continue their normal activities and schedules. Cities with higher risk will cancel mass events, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues will be temporarily closed.

People arriving from other provinces must submit a PCR test. Regardless of the results; they have to quarantine, either in confinement centers or from home.

Chines New Year celebrations have a global impact

China is one of the main maquilas in the world, from here thousands of containers depart daily to different countries. How does the Chinese New Year affect? total stoppage of factories and companies for almost a month; the collapse of means of transport and mass movement, considered the largest in the world.

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