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Chinese New Year Facts

11 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know

Chinese New Year Facts

Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) is a major holiday in not just China but also other countries in Asia.

Here are 11 interesting and fun facts about this important, popular and wonderful holiday and tradition.

1. The date changes

Like Christmas/New Year in other countries, Chinese New Year is simply a much-needed winter holiday at an auspicious time. The date is different each year on the Gregorian (internationally-used) calendar, but is always between January 21th and February 20th. Chinese New Year 2017 is on Saturday January 28.

2. The holiday is also known as "Spring Festival"

Though in winter, Chinese call their New Year holidays 'Spring Festival' (春节 chūnjié /chwnn-jyeah/), because 'Start of Spring' (4–18 February) is the first of the terms in the traditional solar calendar. While wintry weather prevails, 'Start of Spring' marks the end of the coldest part of winter, when the Chinese traditionally could look forward to the beginning of spring. Chinese traditionally celebrated the start of a new year of farm work, and wished/prayed for a good harvest. This has now evolved into celebrating the start of a new business year and wishing for profits and success in various vocations.

3. Every Chinese New Year starts a new animal's zodiac year.

A very old custom is to name the years by one of 12 animals in their zodiac cycle. For example, 2017 is a year of the Rooster. Many Chinese still believe in astrology and other New Year superstitions. People focus on priorities: making amends, reconciling with people, avoiding offence, and re-establishing old ties. They buy and wear new clothes, give gifts, and clean house. It's considered a bad year for "Roosters": people born in a Rooster year.

4. It is a festival for 1/5 of the world's population.

It's China's winter vacation week, like between Christmas and New Year's Day other countries. Schools in China get about a month off, and universities even more. China, Hong Kong and Macau, and nine other Asian countries have public holidays.

China: 1.3 billion in China get three days of public holiday.
Indonesia: 250 million people in Indonesia get one day of public holiday.
Philippines: 100 million get one day of public holiday.
Vietnam: 90 million people get at least three days of public holidays, but the holidays sometimes extends for an entire week by taking away weekends, as in China.
South Korea: 50 million people get three days of public holiday.
Malaysia: 30 million people get two day of public holiday.
North Korea: 24 million people get three days of public holiday.
Taiwan: 24 million people get four days of public holiday generally.
Brunei: One day of public holiday.
Singapore: Two days of public holiday.
Hong Kong: Three days of public holidays, extending to four days if the holidays fall on a Sunday.
Macau: Three days of public holiday, extending to four days if the holidays fall on a Sunday.

5. Billions of red envelopes are exchanged.

These red envelopes with cash are given out from older to younger, from bosses to employees, and from leaders to underlings. It is a special New Year's bonus. Read more on How to Give Chinese New Year Lucky Money (Red Envelopes)

6. It's big in London and HK.

500 thousand people converged for Chinese New Year in London's Chinatown, Trafalgar Square, and central London streets in 2015. In Hong Kong, a big holiday custom is horse racing: The most popular races of all in the city happens on the third day of the Spring Festival holidays when 100,000 excited fans crowd into Sha Tin Racecourse. The spectators watch a grand opening show, a featured lion dance, and a variety of cultural performances and entertainment.

7. The globe’s biggest annual fireworks usage

No single hour in any other country sees as many tons of fireworks lighted as in China around the midnight beginning Chinese New Year. Did you know that China produces about 90% of the world's fireworks!
Fireworks are used to scare evil spirits: Most mainland Chinese believe that the flash and bang of firecrackers and fireworks scare away demons and evil ghosts.

8. 4% of the world's population are on the move

200 million Mainland Chinese travel long distances for these holidays, and it is estimated that there are 3.5 billion journeys in China. For comparison, less than 100 million people travel more than 50 miles during the Christmas holidays in the US according to the American Automobile Association. Tens of millions of people travel in other countries too.

9. The Lantern Festival once ended 16 days of festivities

Traditionally, the 16 days from New Year's Eve until the Lantern Festival each had a special celebration activity.
The Lantern Festival: In the evening of 15th day of the first lunar month, on the night of the full moon, families gather for dinner and go out and see fireworks and light lanterns. Lanterns are put up for decoration, let loose to fly, and floated in rivers.

10. "Xinnian Kuaile" means "Happy New Year".

Xīnnián kuàilè! (新年快乐). That's pronounced "sshin-nyen kwhy-luh", by the way.

11. Chinese New Year is hard for "old" singles!

CNY is a joyful time for most, but for singles above the normal matrimonial age it's not. Parents and relatives believe they should be settled down already. In China, females are said to be marriageable up to 30, and males before 32. Those who don't get married before these ages are thought to be the dregs of society!
For these singles, parents are extremely anxious. So New Year's Eve stress is heightened by embarrassing interrogations of the singles. Desperate parents even arrange dating (prospective marriages) for their single children.
To solve this problem an interesting, and often ridiculous, solution has appeared — renting a boyfriend or girlfriend for the New Year. Websites and agents specialise in this business - can you believe it. Taobao, China's largest online retailer, has a section for fake boyfriend and girlfriend rentals. The price is about 100 yuan (16 USD) a day.

*Thanks to China Highlights (and Cindy Tang). Check out China Highlights if you want to head to China.