Happy Chinese New Year

Published 5th February 2019

Welcoming in the Year of the Pig

Yes, another reason to celebrate – and for this celebration around a quarter of the world is already with you. Chinese New Year affects far more than China (in fact in China it is not even officially called New Year but we'll come to that in a minute). Significant Chinese populations across the Far East celebrate and there are similar celebrations for the New Year in Korea, Vietnam and Tibet. There are also smaller celebrations across Europe and Australasia wherever there are ethnically Chinese communities.

Chinese New Year is regulated by the lunar calendar and starts at the new moon that falls between the last few weeks of January and the first weeks of February. A big part of the festival is the coming together of families to eat, drink and pray. This usually causes the largest voluntary movement of people around the Far East as young Chinese and those who have departed for the cities try and get home to parents and family for the festival.

In mainland China the festival is now officially titled the Spring festival, an attempt by the Communist Regime to distance the celebrations from any religious significance (though this has largely failed).

Like so many festivals at this time of year that originate in the Northern Hemisphere, lights play a significant role in the activities and it is the custom to release lanterns and to set off fireworks. Families also give small red envelopes that contain money to bring good fortune for the year ahead.

Of course the part of the New Year celebrations that sticks in the minds of most non-Chinese is the performance of the Lion Dance in the streets, along with the fact that each year is represented by an animal. The animals form the Chinese zodiac run of a 12-year cycle. The year ahead is represented by the pig – a creature that brings wealth and good fortune. The Year of the Pig is traditionally associated with good luck for everyone if they work hard and those born in the year of the pig are considered good-natured and fortunate in life.

So Happy New Year and welcome to all of this year’s little piggies!

Find out more about Chinese history in our modern China podcast series below, which we are making available to listen to for free during the Chinese New Year period: