In countries like the UK, Europe and the USA, we celebrate the start of each New Year on the first day of January. However, not all cultures observe New Year at the same time. The people of Thailand will celebrate the start of their New Year with a festival called Songkran in April 2020. Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is a sacred time on the Hindu calendar. It’s a five-day celebration and starts in November.
The people of China around the world celebrate the start of their New Year on 25 January 2020. It’s also known as Spring Festival and is a time of celebrating special traditions, eating delicious food, and spending time with family and friends. In fact, being with family is so important that millions of people make their way home each year in what is known as the world’s biggest migration.
Read more about Chinese New Year, and create fun craft templates, as you explore and learn about our world.
What animal year is 2020?
Each year in the Chinese calendar is related to an animal sign and 2020 is the Year of the Rat. According to legend, there was a great race between the animals to decide the order of the lunar calendar. Rat hitched a ride on ox and just before the finish line, leapt off and darted ahead to take first place, and so became the first animal in the zodiac.
In Chinese culture rats are perceived to be nimble, witty, alert and cautious, and are regarded as a sign of wealth and surplus. Do you know your Chinese zodiac animal? Head here to find out.
What do you eat during Chinese New Year?
Food is an important part of Chinese New Year celebrations. While dishes like spring rolls, noodles and dumplings are delicious to eat any time of year, did you know that they’re served during Chinese New Year because they have specific meanings and are thought to bring good fortune.
Ever wonder where yummy, crunchy spring rolls get their name from? They’re traditionally eaten during the Spring Festival and because their cylindrical shape resembles gold bars, they’re said to symbolise wealth.
Fish is served because the Chinese word for ‘fish’ is a homophone for the word for ‘surplus’. (A homophone is a word that sounds like another but has a different spelling or meaning.) Chinese people like to have a surplus at the end of a year because it is believed that if you have managed to save something this year, you can make more in the next year. Even the type of fish, how’s cooked and when it’s eaten is carefully decided.
Dumplings are a favourite not only because they’re scrumptious, but they’re believed to be lucky. In fact, it is thought that the more dumplings you eat during New Year, the more money you’ll make!
A special kind of rice cake called ‘nian gao’ is a must on any table. The name ‘nian gao’ sounds like the Chinese for ‘year high’. In other words, it is believed that eating these special rice cakes means you’ll start the year on a high note. They’re made from sticky, glutinous rice flour, wheat, water, salt and sugar and can be eaten sweet or savoury. You can explore how they’re made by clicking here.
The long noodles served during this time represent a long life. In fact, you shouldn’t cut ‘longevity noodles’, as they’re known because the longer the noodles, the longer your life. And get ready to slurp because if you can eat them without biting them into pieces, even better!
What special traditions are observed?
There are many traditions observed during this time to bring good fortune for the year ahead and avoid bad fortune. Did you know that you shouldn’t clean during the festival? It is thought you may sweep or throw away good luck.
The Chinese New Year holds many special traditions to begin the year on the right note. Firstly, every member of the family starts off the first day wearing new clothes from head to toe. Red is considered a lucky colour because it represents happiness, success and good fortune, and it’s a good idea to wear something red.
Grown-ups give what is known as ‘lucky money’ or ‘New Year’s money’ in red envelopes (also known as red packets) to children to pass on good fortune and blessings. Children also give red envelopes to their elders as a show of gratitude and a wish for longevity. When giving lucky money it’s important that the notes are new and crisp. Giving old, wrinkled notes is considered bad form.
Eight is regarded as the luckiest number in Chinese culture and when giving money in red envelopes, it’s important to know which numbers are considered lucky and unlucky. You don’t want to give anyone anything related to the number four as is considered extremely unlucky!
Make your own lucky red envelope: Head over to this post by Red Ted Art for more information and ideas.
New Year is always celebrated with setting off fireworks and firecrackers. They were originally used to scare away evil spirits and mark the start of the New Year. In fact, their red paper wrappings are left outside for at least a day before being tidied up because red is considered such a lucky colour.
Many cities around the UK have colourful, vibrant Chinese New Year celebrations. Search for your nearest and you may even have the chance to see the amazing acrobatic dragon and lion dances.
Further engage children in the Chinese New Year with these hands-on Chinese New Year arts & crafts activities that we’ve pulled together. Specifically designed for the celebrations, these colourful activities will encourage children, at home and school, to celebrate the Chinese New Year in creative and imaginative ways. We’d love to see your own creations in the comments below!
Which is your favourite fact about Chinese New Year? Leave a comment below and let us know.