12 Things to Know About Chinese New Year

Traditionally, the Chinese New Year is the most economically and socially important holiday for the Chinese. Click to learn more about this holiday that is celebrated throughout the world.

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1. It's Actually Called "Lunar New Year" The dates for Chinese New Year change every year according to the lunar calendar. This year, it begins on Friday, January 31. Celebrations will continue for 15 days, from one new moon to the next full moon. In China, the holiday is officially called "Spring Festival."
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2. Family Reunion Time Start off the year with family and friends. It's tradition for an elder to host a New Year's Eve feast. Remember to have an even number of dishes on the table (rather than an odd number, which brings unhappiness) and to share them family-style.
3. Pop Pop Pop! In mythical times, a ferocious beast named Nian would plague a village, eating livestock and people. To scare him away, the villagers banged drums and set bamboo sticks on fire. Today, the tradition continues with the lighting of firecrackers and fireworks to ward off evil spirits.
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4. The Color Red Red is the color of good luck in Chinese culture, but it's also believed that the monster Nian was scared of red. Decorating your home with traditional red paper cutouts and scrolls will also keep evil spirits away. Wearing red on New Year's day is said to bring you joy and good fortune.
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5. Year of the Horse There are 12 animal symbols in the Chinese zodiac cycle. This year we celebrate the Year of the Horse! So, If you're turning 12, 24, 36, etc then this is your year. Traditionally, it is believed this year could be unlucky for you. To ward off danger and bad luck, you should wear something red every day of this year (like red underwear). An easier option is tying a piece of red ribbon or yarn around your wrist.
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6. Dumplings are Symbolic Dumplings are not only delicious, but they also resemble gold ingots or "yuanbao" that were used as currency in ancient China. On the first day of the festival, families will enjoy dumplings of a variety of fillings, to symbolize wealth, happiness and togetherness for the family.
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7. Other Foods to Eat Sticky rice cakes, called "niangao," are considered good luck to eat during the Festival--it symbolizes family coherence and harmony. Eating long noodles is also important: it represents living a long life. "Fish" is "yu" in Chinese, which sounds the same as the word for "abundance"; having fish for dinner is believed to bring prosperity for the New Year.
8. Lucky Number 8 The number 8 in Chinese is "ba," which rhymes with "fa," the word for "prosperity." Chinese families will make an effort to incorporate the number into their lives for good luck, especially on the New Year. For example, it's common for hosts to arrange a tray of eight different types of candies for their guests.
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9. Red Envelopes Red envelopes are generally filled with money, and given out by married couples to children and single people as blessings for the New Year. The contents are sometimes considered "lucky money," and should be saved and not spent that year.
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10. Cleaning and Hygiene Give your home a thorough cleaning to "sweep away" ill fortune--but make sure to get it done before Chinese New Year begins. If you clean the house during the next 15 days of the holiday, you'll be clearing away all the good luck you've just received. Same goes for haircuts (the really superstitious ones don't even wash their hair!).
11. Say 'Hello!' Rather, say "Gong Xi Fa Cai" (Mandarin) or "Gung Hay Fat Choy" (Cantonese), which are well wishes for the New Year. Make an effort to spread goodwill and holiday cheer to those around you. It's important to avoid fights, quarrels and tears, which are believed to bring bad luck.
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12. Festival of Lanterns To conclude the holiday, families get together on the 15th day and eat "tangyuan." These desserts are round, glutinous rice dumplings served in soup, usually with a sweet sesame or peanut filling. At night is the Lantern Festival, where people light up red paper lanterns as beacons to guide wandering spirits home.
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