We tried to pull together some vital information every foreigner should be aware of regarding the celebration of Chinese New Year. Its comprehensive enough to keep you well informed. In this article, I will treat the following topics
1. Introduction to Chinese Spring Festival (aka Chinese New Year)
2. You will get to know the kind of Mythical Animal you are according to Chinese Culture
3. Greetings During the Chinese New Year
4. Food Eaten During the Festival Celebrations
5. Complete Overview of What Chinese Do From Day 1 until Day 15 and the Lantern Festival
6. Chinese New Year Decorations
7. Taboos – Very important for foreigners, don’t give the wrong gift
Let’s review the history and culture of Chinese about the most important Celebration called the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. The world’s largest movement of people happens during the Chinese New Year as millions of Chinese go home for the celebration. After few days China will celebrate a new year bringing to an end a significant year for China Internship Placements; during this year, CIP offered 400+ Internship Placements and 200 Chinese Language Participants in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and some other interesting cities. We tried our first ever Job portal, and CIP happened to be the first ever China internship program that allowed Interns to review organizations and Job roles before applying. We gathered feedback and will be used to improve the system. We also established our alumni job portal to provide permanent job updates to interns who complete our program. We also invest in our alumni to make sure we keep updating and training them.
History in perspective about Chinese New Year (春节, Chūn jié)
I am a big fan of traditional Chinese holidays because they have quite a lot of them with which means celebrations and having to rest from work. Chinese New Year is the longest traditional holiday which is also known as “Spring Festival” in the modern world which is tied initially to the lunar-solar calendar. Usually, the first day of the New Year falls on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February which makes the holiday to fall on 28th Jan 2017 as the first day of the Chinese New Year. If you are lucky to be an intern in China or learning Chinese language while these festivities are going on, you are counted fortunate because you will be experiencing the rich culture of the Eastern Kingdom. If not, I have put together this piece to help you with detailed information about how it all works out
You may have read elsewhere that Chinese New Year is same as Spring Festival and it is the most revered celebration in China. These celebrations hold significant places in China’s Century-old history.
According to legends, Chinese New Year was born with a mythical beast that lives under the sea or in the mountains called Nian (which also means ‘year’) would eat children. So one year all the villagers decided to hide from the beast, but an old man appeared and said that he was going to stay the night to get revenge on the Nian by putting up red papers and setting off firecrackers. The day after, the villagers came back to their town to see that nothing was destroyed and assumed that the old man was a deity or a supernatural that came to save them. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the red color and loud noises. That explains the reason you might see a lot of people wearing red clothes during New Year, and hanging red lanterns, red spring scrolls on windows and doors and also using firecrackers to frighten away the Nian.
Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese New Year vary widely. Often, the Chinese New Year’s Eve is an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual dinner. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck. Interning in China will expose you to very confusing and detail cultural practices but its just a matter of time and you will be okay with as many. I felt same during my first few years in China.
Chinese New Year and Birth Year Animals
What Animal Sign are you?
Based on a 12-year cycle, the Sheng Xiao (‘birth likeness’) is represented by 12 different animals and calculated according to the lunar calendar – 2018 is the Year of the Dog. Find your animal sign below and let us know if its character traits sound like you.
Year of the Monkey
Years of birth: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Celebrity monkeys: Daniel Craig, Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Hanks
Character traits: Self-assured, sociable and sporty, monkeys are versatile, flexible and creative. But they can also be jealous, suspicious and selfish
Best matches: Rat, dragon, snake
Year of the Rooster
Years of birth: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
Celebrity roosters: Britney Spears, Roger Federer, Kate Middleton
Character traits: Punctual, honest, bright and warm-hearted, roosters are neat and like to keep busy. They can be critical, quick-tempered and hate dawdlers
Best matches: Ox, dragon, snake
Year of the Dog
Years of birth: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
Celebrity dogs: Winston Churchill, Prince William, Madonna
Character traits: Faithful, courageous and clever, dogs make great leaders and are good at keeping secrets. But they’re quick to find fault and can be distant
Best matches: Tiger, rabbit, horse
Year of the Pig
Years of birth: 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031
Celebrity pigs: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hillary Clinton, Julie Andrews
Character traits: Chivalrous, optimistic and frank, pigs are kind and loyal friends and light of heart. Sometimes they can be a little too trusting
Best matches: Sheep, rabbit
Year of the Rat
Years of birth: 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
Celebrity rats: Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Katy Perry
Character traits: Smart, wealthy, successful and popular, rats are curious and thoughtful and like tidiness. But they can be stubborn and lack courage
Best matches: Dragon, monkey, ox
Year of the Ox
Years of birth: 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
Celebrity oxes: Barack Obama, Kiera Knightley, George Clooney
Character traits: Patient, cautious and industrious, oxes have strong staying power and don’t jump into making decisions. But they’re poor communicators
Best matches: Rat, snake, rooster
Year of the Tiger
Years of birth: 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
Celebrity tigers: Marilyn Monroe, Robert Pattinson, Tom Cruise
Character traits: Loyal, trustworthy and courageous, tigers are good at expressing themselves and like challenges. But they can be hasty and over-confident
Best matches: Horse, dog
Year of the Rabbit
Years of birth: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
Celebrity rabbits: Queen Victoria, David Beckham, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie
Character traits: A symbol of hope and peace, rabbits are compassionate and modest, with a good sense of humor. They’ll do anything to escape from a dull life
Best matches: Sheep, pig, dog
Year of the Dragon
Years of birth: 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
Celebrity dragons: Bruce Lee, Rihanna, Florence Nightingale
Character traits: Ambitious, energetic and intellectual, dragons are romantic and strive for perfection. But they can be arrogant and impatient
Best matches: Rat, monkey, rooster
Year of the Snake
Years of birth: 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Celebrity snakes: Daniel Radcliffe, Muhammad Ali, Audrey Hepburn
Character traits: Wise, passionate, sympathetic and even-tempered, snakes are self-aware and good communicators. They can be fickle, jealous and headstrong
Best matches: Ox, Rooster
Year of the Horse
Years of birth: 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Celebrity horses: Sir Paul McCartney, Kristen Stewart, Katie Holmes
Character traits: Positive, easygoing and warm-hearted, horses are dynamic generous and attract many friends. But they tend to over-spend
Best matches: Tiger, sheep, dog
Year of the Sheep
Years of birth: 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
Celebrity sheep: Nicole Kidman, Matt LeBlanc, Bruce Willis
Character traits: Gentle, calm, kind, caring and polite, sheep are one of the most loved of the signs. Sometimes shy, sensitive and pessimistic, they have an artistic streak
Best matches: Rabbit, horse, pig
So as an Intern in China, who has numerous friends it is time to show off your Chinese Cultural skills. If you are not in China, you may have some Chinese friends in Class, and you may impress them with some text messages and well wishes. Below are some sample of very useful Chinese New Year greetings. Our Internship in China participants are taught to handle these greetings comfortably during their Chinese language lessons
Spring Festival Food
One of the obvious features of Chinese celebration of the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) is eating and merrymaking. During your orientation before starting your internship, you may have heard some resource persons talk about the relevance of dinning and winning in the history of China, and this is expressed to the extreme during the Chinese New Year.
Food is essential during this Festival because Chinese Society was once very poor. So Families save so they can afford the most expensive and delicious traditional dishes for the entire family. But with enhanced development and Chinese Economic prosperity, many can afford food so it is becoming less and less critical but the art of gathering and eating at the table with about 3-4 generations will never lose its value
It is also vital to note that some great delicacies remain relevant and are treated as valuable. Food such as dumplings (jao zi), and Spring Festival Cake are always consumed to signify success in the coming year and also good luck. Our Internship in China Program participants get to eat some of these traditional delicacies during these times
Chinese also have some lucky food that they eat to celebrate New Year;
- Eight Treasures Rice (contains glutinous rice, walnuts, different colored dry fruit, raisins, sweet red bean paste, jujube dates, and almonds).
- 1. “Tang Yuan” – black sesame rice ball soup; or a Won Ton soup.
- 2. Chicken, duck, fish and pork dishes.
- 3. “Song Gao”, literally translates to “loose cake”- which is made of rice which has been coarsely ground and then formed into a small, sweet round cake.
- 4. “Jiu Niang Tang” – sweet wine-rice soup which contains small glutinous rice balls
Fish is a must for Chinese New Year as the Chinese word for fish (鱼, Yú) sounds like the word for surplus so eating fish is believed to bring a surplus of money and good luck in the coming year.
Participants of internship in China Program exploring some goodies for their Chinese friends
What to expect as an Intern in Beijing and Shanghai
New Year Eve: Family Gathering
A day before the Chinese New Year, families usually come together, and members who work in the city are to return home. It is often a happy moment as many have not seen each other for a while. These moments are fascinating to see 4 generations living in the same compound, cooking together and eating together. The emphasis is unity. All will stay awake while the youth go after the fireworks, the elders sit to reminisce the year and play games
1st Day: New Year Celebrations
The spring festival marks the start of a fresh year, and the beginning of spring as well. On this day the more fireworks continue, and Chinese are known for manufacturing one of the best firework displays. According to history, evil spirits do not like the sound of the firecrackers, and they will not come near the homes.
The Younger generation will visit the old generation and greet them. It is very significant for blessings and good luck.
2nd Day: Visitations
On this day, more sacrifices offered to the Gods and Spirits of Success and bounty. Businessmen and shop owners sacrifice animals and other gifts to these gods.Later in the day, Son-in-laws visit the family of their wives usually referred to as “Ying Xu Ri” . They pay visits with gifts and other offerings for the families of their wives. If you are a participant of our internship in China program, you may visit your friends on this day and greet their families. Keep some of the greetings in mind and surprise them. Time to practice!
3rd Day: Relaxation Day
Moreover, on the third day, Chinese rest! It is so because it believed to be a bad luck day and not ideal for socialization. However, with time, many disregard this. You may invite some of your Chinese friends to dinner or visit some touristic sites in the city you are placed
4th Day: Day of the good luck gods
After the bad luck day comes, the good luck day referred to as “Yang ri” the day of the ram. Ram is a symbol considered to be good luck in Chinese culture. Somewhere during the 4th day, Chinese also offer sacrifice to the Kitchen god using the head of a ram.
5th Day: No taboo day
On this day, Chinese are free to break all rules, and it won’t be counted as an abomination. It’s like the freedom day and is observed as such.
6th Day: Sacking poverty from home
On this day, Chinese wage war against all spirits and Ghosts of poverty and bad luck. The rituals for doing this varies from one city to another.
7th Day: the day of Human creation
According to Chinese mythology, Human Beings were created on the 7th day and is called “ren ri” So humans are celebrated
8th day: The day of harvest
This is a very significant day, and the signs of weather tell whether the year will be full of bountiful harvest or poverty and famine. A bright sky on this days signifies the coming year will be full of good things and good harvest.
9th Day: Celebrate the Jade Emperor
The Jade Emperor who is the deity of Taoism is believed to have been born on this day. All temples celebrate him on this day and families have their way of celebrating and performing various sacraments
10th Day: the birthday of the god of stone
This day forbids movement of rocks, cutting of stones and cities who regard mountains as gods offer special sacrifices.
11th Day: Son and Father-in-laws meet
The name of the day says a lot. If you are married to Chinese lady, this is the day that you go to meet your father-in-law and talk with him
12th &13th Day: Lantern Festival Approaches
Nothing significant happens on this day. Some people take a leave from heavy eating.
Day 14 and 15: lantern festival starts
I am not sure of the significance of this festival, but most Chinese buy a lantern and hung on their doors, main gates and some famous places of their homes.
It is possible to see grand performances and large crowd gathering on main streets of China. Performances like the dragon dance happens during this festival
The red color paper-cuts and couplets hang on windows and doors will be decorated with favorite themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth, and longevity. Other activities include lighting firecrackers and fireworks and giving money in red paper envelopes.
CAUTION! TABOOS – The Do’s and Don’ts
Traditionally many taboos were associated with the Spring Festival, but in recent years some of them have been discarded, especially among the modern urban populations in larger cities and the younger generation.
Gifts exchange taboos
If you are coming to China for an internship, avoid giving wrong gifts during Chinese New Year by taking a look at the list below as they are considered taboo.
- 1. Sharp objects that symbolize cutting relationship ties (i.e., scissors and knives)
- 2. In Chinese, the number four (四, sì) sounds similar to the word for death (死, sǐ). So anything with the number 4 is considered unlucky — do not give gifts in sets or multiples of four
- 3. Items that symbolize that you want to walk away from a relationship and also shoes are something you step on, therefore, bringing bad luck. (examples: shoes and sandals)
- 4. Items (i.e. handkerchiefs, towels, items colored white and black) are associated with funerals that insinuate saying goodbye.
- 5. “Umbrella” sounds like “closing” or “fall”. Chinese word for ‘umbrella’ (伞, sǎn) sounds like the word for ‘breaking up’ (散, sàn)
- 6. Items that show that time is running out, i.e., clocks and watches are a big NO for a gift because ‘giving a clock’ (送钟, sòng zhōng) sounds exactly like ‘attending a funeral ritual’ (送终, sòng zhōng).
- 7. Giving fruit is a good thing, but pears are taboo. This is because the Chinese word for ‘pears’ (梨, lí) sounds the same as the word for leaving or ‘parting’ (离, lí).
- 8. Freshly Cut flowers are presents for funerals! Especially the Yellow Chrysanthemums and any white flowers, which represent death in Chinese culture.
- 9. Mirrors are a terrible idea for gifts throughout much of Asia, as they are believed to attract malicious ghosts. Moreover, they are easily broken and breaking things is a bad omen.
This is how you say Happy New Year in Chinese;
The entire CIP team wishes you all Happy Chinese New Year and prosperous one indeed!!
Our Internship in China Program is running all throughout the year. Get the best of your career expectations and explore Chinese working culture and business ethics while improving your profile. If you want to join our summer Chinese Language Programs, we welcome you abroad experience you will never regret