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An Introduction to Chinese New Year


Why is it called the Spring Festival?

Though being in winter for most of China, the Chinese New Year is popularly known as the Spring Festival in China. Because it starts from the Beginning of Spring (the first of the twenty-four terms in coordination with the changes of Nature) and marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

The Spring Festival marks a new year on the lunar calendar and represents the desire for a new life.

When Is Chinese New Year 2021?

Chinese New Year falls on Friday, February 12 in 2021. (Official holiday break is Feb 11 - Feb 17)

The date of the Chinese New Year is determined by the lunar calendar: the holiday falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice on December 21. Thus, each time the New Year in China falls on different dates of the usual Gregorian calendar, between January 21 and February 20.

Origin of Spring Festival


The origin of the Spring Festival now is too old to be traced. It is widely believed that the word ‘Nian'(in Chinese means 'year'), was first the name of a monster beast that started to prey on human being at the night before the beginning of a new year. It had a very big mouth that would swallow many people with one bite. People were very scared. Finally one day, people found that out Nian was afraid of firecrackers and the color red. After that, people can enjoy the peaceful life.

From then on, the tradition of observing the conquest of ‘Nian' is carried on from generation to generation. The term ‘Guo Nian', which may mean ‘Survive the Nian' becomes today's ‘Celebrate the New Year', as the word ‘Guo' in Chinese having both the meaning of ‘pass-over' and ‘observe'. The custom of putting up red paper and firing firecrackers to scare away 'Nian' had been well preserved.

Customs of Spring Festival


Paste couplets(Chinese: 贴春联): it’s a kind of literature. Chinese people like to write some dual and concise words on red paper to express their new year’s wishes. On the arrival of New Year, every family will paste couplets.


Family reunion dinner(Chinese: 团圆饭): people travelling or residing in a place far away from home will back to their home to get together with their families. The meal is more luxurious than usual. Dishes such as chicken, fish and bean curd is necessary, for in Chinese, their pronunciations sounds like ‘Ji', ‘Yu', and ‘Doufu', with the meanings of auspicious, abundant and rich. Sons and daughters working away from home come back to join their parents.


Stay up late on New Year’s Eve(Chinese: 守岁): it’s a kind of way for Chinese people to welcome New Year’s arrival. Staying up late on New Year’s Eve is endowed with auspicious meaning by people. The old do it for cherishing their past time, the young do it for their parents’ longevity.

Hand out red packets(Chinese: 发红包): elders will put some money into red packets, and then hand out to the younger generation during spring festival. In recent years, electric red packets are popular among younger generation.


Set off firecrackers(Chinese:放鞭炮): Chinese people think the loud sound of the firecrackers can drive away devils, and the fire of the firecrackers can make their life thriving in the coming year.

Special Food for Spring Festival


Nian’gao(年糕): a kind of Chinese cake, made by sticky rice. It’s an indispensible food in Chinese New Year for the meaning of thriving in the New Year.


Jiaozi(饺子): a kind of dumplings in China. There are many kinds of jiaozi with different ingredients. Chinese people eat Jiaozi on New Year’s Eve, people who eats the Jiaozi with coin or some special ingredient will be the luckiest.


Tangyuan(汤圆): a kind of dumplings in China. Tangyuan with sesame inside is the most common filling. There is a slight difference between northern China and southern China. The filling is salty in northern China, while that is sweet in southern China.


Zongzi(粽子): a kind of dumplings in China. It’s made of sticky rice filled with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. Meat is the main filling in southern China, while bean is main filling in northern China.


What Should You Pay attention to While Traveling in Spring Festival in China?

Transportation: Two weeks before Spring Festival, people who are out of home for work start to come back to hometown from other cities by flight, train or bus to spend the festival with their festival. And usualy within two weeks after the festival, people will travel back to the cities in which they work. If you plan to visit China during Chinese New Year, in order to avoid tickets being sold out, you’d better book it in advance. Besides, the air fares will be more expensive than usual.


Restaurant: some restaurateurs may be back to their hometown to spend New Year time with their families, so some restaurants may close business for the time of Chinese New Year.

Businesses: Small businesses like vendor stores will be closed, and big malls ans supermarkets will shorten their opening hour.


Hotel: in some tourist cities, hotel price may higher than usual.

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