Americans may have just celebrated our New Year, but that doesn’t mean the party is over everywhere!
In fact, in China the New Year won’t happen until January 28, 2017. That’s because the date of the New Year is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar, as opposed to the calendar much of the rest of the world uses. As such, Chinese New Year never falls before January 20, but also never after February 20th. Here’s a look at five other fun facts about Chinese New Year that you may not have previously known.
1. Every year is represented by an animal: The Chinese incorporate their Zodiac into their annual year structure. In many day to day situations you will be far more likely to hear someone refer to the year by the designated animal than by its Christian numeral. There are twelve animals chosen to represent the zodiac. Each year is said to represent certain qualities and the focus for the year is often to focus on these items within oneself. In order, the twelve animals include:
• Rat (wisdom)
• Ox (industriousness)
• Tiger (valor), rabbit (caution)
• Dragon (strength)
• Snake (flexibility)
• Horse (forging ahead)
• Goat (unity)
• Monkey (changeability)
• Rooster (being constant)
• Dog (fidelity)
• Pig (amiability)
These years are further designated by one of five elements, further creating the driving force behind how to behave and shape the upcoming year. These forces include:
• Wood- Energetic, overconfident, tender, unstable
• Fire- trustworthy, strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility
• Earth- lovely, generous, trustworthy, popular
• Gold- determined, brave, perseverant, hardworking
• Water- smart, quick-witted, tenderhearted, compassionate
Because of the pairing factors, each combination occurs only once every sixty years or so. 2017 is the year of the Fire Rooster.
2. It’s actually called “Spring Festival”: Despite happening in the middle of the winter season, the Chinese New Year is actually referred to by the Chinese as the “Spring Festival.” Confusing at it may seem at first, the reasoning behind this makes plenty of sense. You see, the first of the terms in the solar calendar, spring, will happen during the window allowed for the Chinese New Year. Typically a time of year that is looked forward to with great anticipation, the “start of spring” marks the conclusion of the coldest days of winter, and the start of warming trends and improving agricultural returns. There are 23 additional solar terms that are recognized in the Chinese calendar, two for every sign in western astrology. These terms, which include titles for major heat, start of autumn, rain waters, and awakening of the insects, tend to deal with natural phenomenon that can be observed in nature. With origins dating back to 206 BC, today’s solar terms do align with hard calendar dates.
3. It’s a big deal: Because the population of China is so large, and also partly because the Chinese population is so widespread worldwide, the Chinese New Year actually impacts an estimated 1/5th of the world’s population. Much like American children get the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day off from school, Chinese children can expect up to a month off around the Chinese New Year. It’s a public holiday for adults, and those in University can expect and even longer break. This adds up to a lot of time off of work and school across a variety of countries including China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, South & North Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
As a result of all that time off of work and school, many people travel during this time of year. In fact, estimates say as much as 4% of the world’s population will travel for the New Year celebrations. That’s 200 million Chinese Mainlanders alone! Not to mention travelers on other continents or smaller journeys within China, estimated at more than 3.5 billion. Compare that against the busy American travel season that sees, on average, just about 100 million people traveling 50 miles or more (According to AAA), and you start to get an idea of the scale of travel Chinese New Year has on global travel!
4. The celebration marks the world’s largest fireworks usage: Forget the Fourth of July in the United States! The fireworks displays in China on Chinese New Year are a thing of true marvel! In fact, no single hour in any other location on the globe will see as may fireworks explosions as are ignited in China around midnight on New Year’s. Of course, this is partly because roughly 90% of the world’s fireworks are produced in China to begin with, but the real reason lies a bit deeper. Fireworks are an important part of Chinese history, and were actually born in the Asian country. They originated more than 2,000 years ago when a Chinese cook accidentally mixed charcoal, Sulphur, and salt pepper. Things went BOOM, and the rest is history. The Chinese believe that the flash and bang of fireworks scare away evil spirits, and are often used to usher in prosperity and peace in the absence of these spirits. The major shows can last over a half hour in duration, play to a crowd of close to a half million, and feature around 24,000 individual firecrackers. Wow!
5. The Lantern Festival happens now: Another major festival, the Lantern Festival, aligns with the New Year celebration. Occurring 16 days AFTER the actual New Year, this festival is renowned for the thousands of lanterns that fill the skies, rivers, and homes in various cities. Tradition has it families will dine together and then go outside to place lanterns to observes the thousands of other lanterns. This tradition has been ongoing for about 2,000 years and marks the official end to the New Year celebration and taboos.
So, what does 2017 have in store for you, if you’re trusting the Chinese calendar? According to Chinese astrology, 2017 is considered the year of the rooster. The 10th year in a 12 year rotating cycle, this year is extra special. 2017 is a “fire rooster” year, an occurrence that happens only once every 60 years. Don’t get too excited about that though, it actually means that “Roosters” can expect a year of extraordinarily bad luck, and should exercise caution in all things!