#7 – Chinese New Year

This is the most important holiday in China – like Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Thanksgiving combined. It has been celebrated for over 4000 years. In ancient times, it was the only holiday for farmers, labourers, maids and soldiers. The rest of the year they worked around the clock seven days a week.

The actual date is not fixed because China used a lunar (moon-based) calendar. It’s on the first day of the first moon and falls between 21 January and 19 February. The exact date used to be announced by the Emperor himself. As the Son of Heaven, only the Emperor had the right to set the calendar. It was a major event because farmers planted their crops according to the Emperor’s calendar. If the calendar was correctly set and the growing season was successful, there would be plenty of food.

Chinese families spent weeks getting ready for New Year. They would clean house, pay bills, bathe, have their hair cut and put on new clothes, usually red in colour. In the old days, many poor people could afford to eat meat only once a year. They would save their copper coins and go hungry the rest of the year for this special occasion. The main meal was eaten at a round table. If someone was absent, a place would be set for him anyway in front of an empty chair.

The holiday is celebrated in much the same way now. Special foods include rice cakes, pork, noodles, fish and dumplings stuffed with chives and pork. There is a special dessert called Eight Treasure Pudding which signifies family union. It is made with sticky rice, lotus seeds, red dates, dried candied fruits and red bean paste. In the afternoon, people visit family and friends and exchange gifts. Children are given lucky money in red envelopes.

On the streets there may be a lion dance or a dragon parade, accompanied by beating drums, cymbals, dancers, acrobats, jugglers, and musicians. Firecrackers are supposed to scare away evil spirits. In the evenings, colourful lanterns dot the storefronts and fireworks light up the sky.

Chinese New Year celebrates family and friends, and symbolises good luck and a new beginning. It is the most important holiday in China.



Chinese Zodiac relates each calendar year to an animal and its reputed attributes, according to a 12-year cycle.

The twelve animals are the following: 

  1. Rat   
  2. Ox
  3. Tiger
  4. Rabbit          1975, 1987, 1999, 2011 are Rabbit Years
  5. Dragon
  6. Snake
  7. Horse
  8. Ram
  9. Monkey
  10. Rooster
  11.  Dog
  12. Pig

Legend has it the twelve animals were chosen by Buddha.  He summoned all the animals and announced that the first twelve would be included in the Chinese Zodiac.  The rat came first, the pig last and all the other animals came in between.

One polite way of finding out someone’s age in China is to ask that person, `Under which animal sign were you born?’  If she says, `Rabbit’, you’ll know she was born in 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963 … and so on.

Chinese New Year will fall on February 3rd, 2011.  This is the year of the Rabbit.

Last year (2010) was the year of the Tiger and next year (2012) will be the year of the Dragon.

People born in the Year of the Rabbit are talented and affectionate.  They are admired and trusted by others.  Though fond of gossip, they are tactful, kind, wise and good-natured.  Most compatible with those born in the Year of the Goat, Pig or Dog.


Rabbit  =  tù兔 is pronounced in the fourth tone  like the word two. 

Year    =  niάn 年 is pronounced in the second tone. 

兔 年    =   Year of the Rabbit 

New   = xīn  新 is pronounced in the first tone  

新   年  =  New Year 

China    =   zhōng 中  guŏ 国