What is Chinese New Year?

This Sunday is Chinese New Year and that means firecrackers, food, and family! You can greet someone by saying Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) or Gung hay fat choy (Cantonese), which means “wishing you prosperity in the coming year.”

From Sam and the Lucky Money

Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar (the moon’s orbit around the Earth), therefore the actual day varies year to year. Many families will prepare for the new year by cleaning the house, shopping for new clothes, buying food to prepare new year meals, and stocking up on red envelopes to put lucky money in. Once the new year arrives, celebratory events continue for the next 15 days, including parades, feasting, red lanterns, and red paper cutouts and calligraphy.

One of the most exciting (and noisy!) activities is the firecrackers. According to old Chinese mythology, there was a mythical beast called Nian who terrorized villages and ate their livestock and crops on the first day of the New Year. One year, villagers noticed Nian running away from a child wearing red, and they realized that Nian was afraid of the color red. That is why the color red is used during Chinese New Year. Firecrackers are used to scare away Nian.

2013 will be the Year of the Snake. People born under this sign are thought to be very intuitive and insightful, and they tend to approach problems rationally and logically. There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, starting with the Rat and ending with the Pig. The legend of the Chinese Zodiac began long ago with the Jade Emperor. He wanted a way to measure time, so he told all the animals on Earth that there would be a swimming race.

The first twelve animals to cross the river would have a year of the zodiac named after them. The Rat and the Cat were scared they wouldn’t make it, but being the clever animals that they were, they asked the Ox if they could ride across on his back and the Ox agreed. Just as they were approaching the finish line, the Rat pushed the Cat into the river and jumped off the Ox’s back to race toward the finish line. This is why the Rat is the first animal in the zodiac and it also explains why cats hate rats and always chase them.

From Amazing Faces

We wish everyone a joyous and prosperous 2013! Check out this heartwarming story to keep the Chinese New Year celebration alive!

Further reading:

What does Ramadan celebrate?

What is Diwali?