Origin of Chinese New Year

Do you know how Chinese New Year came about? We weren’t quite sure ourselves, so we performed a small research to find out all there is about this holiday. Start putting up Chinese New Years decoration afterwards and join the festivities!

The Origin
Chinese New Year is the first day of the lunar calendar, so it is also called the Lunar New Year. And it is also referred to as the Spring Festival since it is the beginning of the Spring term, which is the first term of the 24 terms on the lunar calendar.

It was recorded that Chinese started to celebrate Chinese New Year from about 2000 BC, though the celebrations were held on different times under different emperors. They started to celebrate Chinese New Year on the first day of the lunar calendar based on Emperor Wu Di’s almanac of the Han Dynasty.

Legend says the celebrations of Chinese New Year may be related to a beast known as Nian. The beast Nian came out to eat people on new years until an old man found a way to conquer it. Then people started to observe and celebrate Chinese New Year. The word “Nian” now has the same meaning as Chinese New Year, which is used as commonly as Chinese New Year. And people often use the term “Guo Nian”, which may originally mean “passed or survived the Nian”. Now everyone loves Guo Nian.

The lunar calendar is represented by twelve animals. Each year is represented by one animal. The twelve animals in order are: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The Chinese zodiac is also based on the 12 animals. 

Traditions and Activities


Usually the preparation starts a month before the new year. The preparation includes thoroughly cleaning and decorating the house, buying new clothes, preparing enough food for at least two weeks. The decorations are highly symbolic with a lot of lucky words, printed paintings and red colors everywhere. Kids are busy in shopping for different kinds of firecrackers. Everyone gets a haircut before the new year. So everything and everyone looks new and fresh on the new year. 

New Year’ Eve
The New Year’s Eve is the time for families. The New Year Eve’s dinner is the biggest dinner of the year, much like Thanksgiving dinner in the United States. The dinner is full of symbolic meaning, such as Chinese dumplings implying wealth since they have the shape of ancient Chinese gold or silver ingots. Everyone, even children, drinks a little Jiu (usually hard liquor), which symbolizes longevity since Jiu has the same pronunciation as longevity in Chinese. Then the family chats while watching national TV shows or listening to radio together until the coming of the new year. In China, the national TV shows have been prepared for a few months by a group of famous entertainers.


Firecrackers are set off as soon as the new year arrives. You can hear or see firecrackers everywhere and this usually lasts for a few hours. Some people will continue to play firecrackers occasionally through out the first half of the first month. Traditionally fireworks are the sign of getting rid of the old and welcoming the new. Fireworks are now banned in China, so this tradition is history. 


Red Packets
Giving Hongbao or red packets during Chinese new year is another tradition. A Red packet is simply a red envelope with money in it, which symbolizes luck and wealth. Red packets are typically handed out to the younger generation by their parents, grand parents, relatives, and even close neighbors and friends.  

Dragon and Lion Dancing
Dragon and Lion dancing is another tradition of Chinese New Year. Traditionally, two people wear a huge lion or dragon costume and dance. The lion dance dates back to the Han Dynasty (205 B.C. to 220 A.D). It is an important tradition in China. Usually the dance is part of festivities like the Chinese New Year, grand openings of businesses, and weddings. If well-performed, the lion dance is believed to bring luck and happiness. Let your children jump, bounce, hop and leap with a lion dance costume to help bring happiness and luck. Also, the lion head makes a unique Chinese New Year’s decoration.

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Filed under chinese new year, decor, holidays, ideas, origin

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