6 things you should know

(CNN Spanish) — The Chinese New Year officially begins on January 22 and with it the longest and most important celebration on that calendar. A holiday that lasts 15 days and is the equivalent of combining Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. In 2023 we say goodbye to the year of the water tiger and welcome the year of the water rabbit.

After three years of travel restrictions during the pandemic era, millions of families around the world are celebrating Lunar New Year, considered the most important festival on the Chinese calendar.

The 15-day celebration is also known as the Spring Festival.

What exactly is the Chinese New Year? Here we explain everything you need to know about this celebration that extends to many Asian countries.

What is Chinese New Year?

Actually, this is not its official name: in China, the festivities are known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year. Precisely, they begin with the second moon after the winter solstice, a date that can go from the end of January to the middle of February in the Gregorian calendar.

Nor is a single day celebrated. The Chinese New Year celebrations begin on the first day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar and last for 15 days, when the full moon arrives. It is a time when families usually come together and travel long distances to get home to see their loved ones. A tradition that the coronavirus has threatened for two consecutive years. For many, this is their only chance of the year to go home and bring goodie bags.

In pandemic years, Beijing’s main train station was packed with travelers ahead of Chinese New Year, as authorities had yet to announce that the coronavirus was transmitted from person to person. Nor had it been acknowledged that it was spreading outside of Wuhan, the initial epicenter of the outbreak. Two days before the Lunar New Year, this city was placed under a total lockdown. However, millions of people in Beijing had already traveled to their hometowns before the holiday began. Which accelerated the spread of the virus.

As it is celebrated?

Each of the 15 days that make up the celebration has its own traditions. On Chinese New Year’s Eve, for example, families gather to have dinner together. There is also the custom of staying at home to receive good fortune or visit the in-laws. In addition, money is given in a red envelope, called “hong bao” to children and adults without a partner. In recent years, the gift has migrated towards the digital.

The tradition of setting off fireworks stems from the custom of lighting bamboo stalks to ward off evil spirits, such as the half-dragon, half-lion monster “Nian”, which according to legend comes out of hiding on Lunar New Year to attack people. . But his ears are his weakness, so in ancient times people would set bamboo stalks on fire to scare him. Over time this led to fireworks.

And the Lunar New Year ends with the Lantern Festival, celebrated at night with parades and displays of decorated lanterns. The main event of this day is the Dragon Dance: beautiful dragons made of paper, silk and bamboo are held above the heads and appear to dance during the parade.

However, much of the traditions are likely to be held virtually — or even put on hold — as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. Because of this, some tourist sites offer free admission for those who are forced to spend the festivities away from their families. Also, companies released tools for people to have a “lunar new year in the cloud,” providing everything from virtual marketplaces to conferencing tools to online dinner parties.

Why is it the year of the water rabbit?

You may know about the 12-year Chinese zodiac calendar, represented by 12 different animals. But, in reality, it is much more complicated. A year is not only classified by its zodiac animal. There is also a complex sexagenary cycle – a combination of one of the 10 heavenly stems and one of the 12 terrestrial branches.

In this cycle the sign is the rabbit and the element is water.

It goes until February 20 of the Gregorian calendar.

This January 22 begins the year 4721 in the Chinese calendar.

Those who are born under the sign of the rat are people with good human qualities, they are intelligent, attentive and benevolent, says the Confucius Institute Magazine from the University of Valencia.

What superstitions characterize the Chinese New Year?

The first thing is not to take out the trash. The reason? It is said that this is how you erase luck and prosperity. You also enjoy time with your family, especially your in-laws and your partner’s relatives, during the second day, which is considered the beginning of the year.

On the third day, on the contrary, it is better not to visit anyone. It is a day prone to arguments, according to tradition. For the seventh you can celebrate.

And red is the color that can never be missing: it is associated with luck and prosperity, but it is used mainly for protection purposes. (The monster “Nian” is also scared by the color red.)

Does the world’s largest migration happen on Chinese New Year?

In mainland China, “Chunyun,” the 40-day period surrounding the festival, sees many Chinese travel to their hometowns to be with their families, and is often called the world’s largest human migration.

This year, after China’s recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions, more families are expected to be able to come together both at home and abroad to celebrate the new year.

Lunar New Year travel begins in China 2:57

Why are Chinese years identified with animals?

Chinese legend has it that Buddha summoned all the animals to meet him on New Year’s Day and named the years after the 12 animals that came. So the animals in the Chinese calendar are the dog, the pig, the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep, the monkey, and the rooster. Tradition also says that people born in each animal year have some personality trait of that animal.

With reporting from Nectar Gan, Lily Lee, Maggie Hiufu Wong and David Culver, all from CNN.

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