If you’re tuned into the Lunar calendar, February 5, 2019 is an incredibly important day, as it marks new beginnings and fresh starts. So don’t be surprised if you hear cymbals happily crashing and drums heartily beating—or even if you see a colorful Dragon Dance in progress—because it is Chinese New Year! The event is an important holiday for those of Chinese heritage as it represents new beginnings and opportunities.
Here are some fun facts about this special holiday:
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The holiday is also known as ‘Spring Festival.’
In China, the Chinese New Year is called ‘chunjie’, or Spring Festival. It is treated as a ceremonial day to pray for the gods’ blessings for a bountiful planting and harvesting season. The festival is also celebrated to welcome new beginnings and fresh starts.
The date for Chinese New Year changes each year.
Unlike Christmas, which is always on December 25, or New year’s Eve which is always on December 31, the Chinese New Year can start on a different day every year, and it usually falls between January 21 and February 20. This is because Christmas is calculated with the solar (Gregorian) calendar while the Chinese New Year is based on the Lunar calendar. 2019 is also the zodiac year of the Earth Pig—an auspicious year believed to be full of prosperity and love!
It is a time when Chinese families come together to celebrate.
Chinese families reunite on the eve of Chinese New Year’s to celebrate and have a meal together. Dinner begins only after all of the family members are present at the table. Hence, when a family member is unable to attend the celebration, a table is set for them to represent their presence, however far away they may be. Many Filipino families have also started to celebrate the holiday, giving themselves an excuse to enjoy delicious food at their favorite Chinese restaurants!
‘Lucky Money’ is given out as customary gifts.
As with other holidays, people also give out gifts during Chinese New Year. But this time, these gifts—money, to be specific—come in special red envelopes, commonly called ampao here in the Philippines. The tradition is traced back to a Chinese folk custom in which elders give red envelopes known as ‘lucky money’ to children so that they will have a peaceful life for the rest of the year. This custom is still very much alive today, and now, it’s not only adults who give lucky money to children. Married couples can give to unmarried family members, and employers can give to their employees.
Dumplings are the most important food for this holiday.
Dumplings, with their juicy fillings of pork and shrimp, are a staple during Chinese New Year. Resembling the shape of gold ingots, they are believed to bring wealth and prosperity, so it’s a must to consume mouthfuls of this savory treat for a year’s worth of good luck! Besides meat, people have also tried wrapping different items in dumplings to attract other blessings for themselves and their families. Some use peanuts for health and longevity, candies for sweet life, and coins for prosperity.
The color red attracts good fortune.
You can tell that Chinese New Year is just around the corner because of the red decorations found along every street, storefront, and home. The color is especially popular during this holiday as it represents prosperity and good fortune. People even buy new clothes—usually in a shade of red—not just to attract good luck, but also represent a fresh start for the year.
The appropriate greeting for Chinese New Year is “Xin Nian Kuai Le!”
— Queens Library (@QueensLibrary) February 17, 2018
The phrase directly translates as “Happy New Year!” The “Gong Hei Fat Choy” we usually say during this holiday means “wishing you great happiness and prosperity.” It is used in Cantonese-speaking regions like Hong Kong and parts of southern China. This greeting has the same meaning as the “Gong Xi Fa Cai” we also use, which is a Mandarin Chinese phrase. Just as Pope Francis would always wish our Chinese brothers and sisters a new year full of peace, let us also extend our greetings to them with a resounding “Xin Nian Kuai Le!”
Watch Pope Francis’ Lunar New Year greeting from 2015 below: