Happy Chinese New Year!


Iain McDonald © chinese new year

Today is Chinese New Year — the beginning of the Year Of The Ox!

Here, we take a look at some of the tales and traditions behind this ancient festival.

How It Began

More than 3,000 years ago, the story goes, a fierce monster called Nián (which can also be Chinese for “year”) terrorised a Chinese village at each year’s end.

A wise traveller persuaded the villagers to display red decorations and to light bamboo, which fizzed and banged as it burned.

The monster came as usual – and was terrified. It ran away without harming a soul. The villagers repeated the ceremony every year and Nián never bothered them again.

The Year Of The Ox

The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is a 15-day celebration at the end of winter. It begins on the first new moon falling between January 21 and February 20.

In 2021, the year of the ox succeeds the year of the rat on Friday, February 12.

The festivities include lights, sound, feasting, decorations, parades and the spectacular dragon and lion dances.

They don’t only take place in China. Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and many other places which have large Chinese-speaking communities observe the festival, making it one of the largest celebrations in the world.

The Year Ahead

Don’t take out the rubbish on New Year’s Day, or you’ll take away the year’s luck with it! There are a host of traditionally lucky and unlucky actions on the first day of the year.

Based mostly on the notion that the day’s events set the tone for the following twelve months, it’s best not to use a knife or scissors (in case they cut off good fortune), lend or borrow money, shout, argue or break anything.

On the other hand, being kind and gentle, wearing new clothes – especially red ones – and eating lucky foods bring good fortune.

Getting Ready

Before the festival, families clean homes and belongings to clear away the remnants of the old year and make way for the new.

They put up red decorations for luck and to ward off evil spirits. Red lanterns line the streets.

It’s a time to buy new items, from furniture to clothing – everything must be ready before the turn of the year!

Fortunate Food

The reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve brings together family members from far and wide in one of the largest mass movements in the world. 

But food is very important throughout the celebrations!

The long strands of longevity noodles wish diners long life. Fish – usually served whole – promises a surplus for the coming year. Half-moon shaped dumplings look like ancient coins, and signify prosperity.

Fruits resembling the sun, such as oranges and mandarins, are favoured for their luck-bringing properties.


For more fascinating features from “The People’s Friend”, click here.

Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.