Christmas might be the biggest annual celebration on the NZ family calendar, but in other parts of the world, the Chinese New Year — and the new lunar year — offers an eye-popping celebration full of food and festivities to herald in good fortune for the year ahead.
What is Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year is the most important event in the Chinese calendar and celebrates the start of a new lunar year, rather than a calendar year. Festivities begin with the new moon on the first day of the new year – which is 5 February in 2019 and ends 15 days later on the next full moon.
Chinese New Year is more than just firecrackers, ‘lucky money’ and dancing dragons – it honours heaven, earth and ancestors, and is a celebration of family and thanksgiving.
Each year is associated with one of twelve Chinese zodiac animal signs, along with one of five elements (gold, water, wood, fire or earth). 2019 is the year of the pig (earth element).
What Year Where You Born?
Your Chinese zodiac animal sign is derived from the year you were born. Below is a guide, though if you were born in January or February it may be slightly different as the beginning of the new year moves between 21st January and 20th February.
- Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
- Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
- Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
- Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
- Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
- Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
- Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
- Sheep: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
- Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
- Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
- Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
- Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971
Chinese New Year crafts for kids
In China, children spend months making crafts for the New Year celebrations. Dragons play a special role in Chinese mythology and tradition and during the New Year celebrations, lively dragon parades can be seen dancing down the streets to the beat of drums and music. Get your kids into the spirit of Chinese New Year by making their very own dancing dragon puppet and Chinese drum, then let them play outside with their creations.
Decorations and traditions to bring Chinese New Year to life
Decorations such as pretty coloured lanterns and paper garlands make Chinese New year come to life. One tradition is for families to clean their house to sweep away any bad luck. Windows and doors are decorated with lucky red paper decorations said to bring “good fortune” or “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”.
Try making these handmade Chinese New Year crafts to bring the festival to life in your house:
- Cute Chinese paper lantern
- Chinese New Year firecracker garland
- Chinese brush painting
- Printable colouring in page for Chinese New Year
- Make a Chinese hat
Chinese New Year feasts
In China, on the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a massive feast with family. The festive table includes meats such as pig, duck, chicken as well as Chinese sweet delicacies. Why not throw a Chinese New Year feast for your family and include these recipes in your banquet?
- Prawn toasts
- Pork and prawn dumplings
- Pork and vegetable rice nooodle rolls
- Honey ginger prawns
- Chinese chicken wings
- Prawn and ginger cakes
- Honey soy drumsticks
Chinese New Year firecrackers and traditions
Firecrackers play a big part in the Chinese New Year celebrations. On the eve of Chinese New Year families will end the night with firecrackers to scare away the evil spirits.
Another fun Chinese New Year tradition that we know your kids will love to adopt is the ‘lucky money’ tradition. Early the next morning after New Years eve, Chinese children greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes! Simply buy some red envelopes and pop a coin or two in them to take part in this fun custom. You can even up the ante by having a treasure hunt game where your kids have to find the hidden red envelopes in your house or garden.
One more thing…
The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone. So if you have any unfinished business with friends or your mother-in-law, now is the time to clear the air before breaking in the new year.