Every year, the Chinese New Year rolls in, marking the turn of the Lunar New Year, yet every year we are none the wiser as to what on Earth it means. Luckily help it at hand with our complete guide to the festival, including where to celebrate the annual event in London.
What is it?
The Chinese New Year, being in accordance to the lunar month as opposed to the solar month, falls on a different date each year, from the 21st January to the 20th February (and very rarely the 21st February, as will be witnessed in 2033). This year it is set to be held on the 8th February and marks the year of the Monkey.
What are the animals all about?
Well, much like our Western New Year, it is marked by unique festivities and customs, but differs in that each year is represented by one of the twelve different zodiac animals, that are meant to represent the attributes of those born during the year.
The upcoming year of the monkey also occurred in 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004 and includes birth dates of celebrities such as Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Dickens, Celine Dion, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Halle Berry, Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger and Julius Caesar to name but a few. Be careful, however, as it is in fact bad luck when your zodiac year comes around! Avoid bad omen by wearing something red given to you by an elder, such as socks, underwear or a bracelet… apparently.
Those born in the year of the monkey are supposed to be cunning, quick-witted, curious and mischievous, and are often successful with wealth and in their careers, but also have the downsides of being arrogant and jealous.
Lucky signs for the monkey include…
Lucky Numbers: 1, 7, 8
Lucky Colours: white, gold, blue
Lucky Flowers: chrysanthemum, alliums
Lucky Directions: North, Northwest, West
But the following should be avoided like the plague…
Unlucky Numbers: 2, 5, 9
Unlucky Colours: red, black, grey, dark coffee
Unlucky Direction: East
What about the year I was born in?
Have a look below…
Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
Goat: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971
So what are the festivities?
The preparations begin from the 23rd of the lunar month, and the celebrations continue for 16 days after the beginning of the New Year, with each day designated for a different activity.
In the preceding days, the focus is on cleaning the house, doing some new year shopping, paying off debts and decorating houses, all as a symbol for a fresh start. On the eve of the Chinese New Year, a big reunion dinner is held, which consists of up to 10 entire courses of meat, fish, vegetables and dumplings. Following this, it is tradition to visit local temples to pray for a prosperous new year, though many families opt for a large party instead.
The first day of the New Year is designed to welcome the deities, and begins at midnight with the setting off of fireworks and lighting bamboo sticks to ward off any evil. Beware of using knives and cooking on the first day, as this is meant to be bad luck – many families prepare their food the day before to avoid this.
In the following days, there are visits to relatives and friends, the offering of sacrifices to the gods and the eating of sweet dumplings. By the fourth day, most have returned to work and resumed normal life. On the 15th day, the final celebration is held with the Lantern Festival; Candles are lit outside houses and families walk the streets carrying lanterns as a way to guide spirits home
How can I celebrate in London?
As an alternative to Valentine’s day, head down to London’s Chinatown on Sunday February 14th for a huge celebration of the Chinese New Year including acrobatics, lion dancers, Chinese food stands and even a light projection on Nelson’s Column. The grand parade is set to leave Trafalfar Square at 10am, so don’t miss out.
For five weeks, Chiswick House and Garden will play host to a huge programme of performances and displays including 50 huge hand-sculpted lanterns and a 60 metre-long dragon stretched out across the lake. Visit the animal kingdom and the enchanted forest for more magical delights, or grab a bite to eat. Tickets £16 for adults.
Get more info at http://www.magicallantern.uk/