January 18, 2023
Chinese New Year 2023
With the Chinese New Year on the 22nd January 2023, we welcome the Year of the Rabbit! We asked Chinese student, Jenny, from our Society and Culture pathway to tell us more about the history and traditions of the Chinese New Year.
The Chinese New Year is an important celebration in China. It is the first day of the lunar calendar and is usually in January or February of the Gregorian calendar. This year’s Chinese New Year’s Day is on January 22nd, and it is the year of the Rabbits.
In anticipation of this day, families will put up spring scrolls at the entrance of their homes to pray for the next bountiful and happy year. New Year’s Eve (the last day of the lunar year) is a day of reunion when the whole family will sit around and eat New Year’s Eve dinner, watch the Chinese New Year Gala on CCTV and so on. We welcome the arrival of midnight together. When midnight comes, everyone will light fireworks to celebrate the arrival of the New Year.
There is a wonderful legend about the Chinese New Year. Thousands of years ago, an evil monster, Nian, appeared and ravaged a village in China one winter eve. The following year the monster returned and ravaged the village again. In order to avoid further damage, the villagers sought the advice of a highly respected old man who devised a plan to scare the monster away. The old man said the monster is afraid of the colour red, the sound of explosions and the light of the fire. So the villagers decided to hang red banners everywhere. They put the gunpowder in the bamboo joints and attached the fuse, hiding it in the path of the monster.
At night the monster entered the village as it had done in previous years. Once again, ready to ravage the village, but this time, it was frightened by the red banners. When some villagers lit the fuse, the loud explosion and sparks caused the monster to retreat and flee back into the mountains, and it never returned again.
To celebrate their defeat of the monster, they held up parties and songs and dances that lasted for several days. People visited each other, exchanged gifts, danced, and enjoyed delicious food. since then, every New Year period every home is decorated with red couplets, firecrackers are set off, and every household is lit up in anticipation of the New Year. The more this custom spreads, the more it becomes the grandest traditional festival of Chinese folklore, the New Year.
In Chinese culture, one of 12 different animals represents each new year. These animals are from the Chinese zodiac, and it repeats every 12 years. The zodiac tradition began many years ago and has been linked to a legendary story, however, there are many versions of the story with each varying slightly. One of the most widely circulated versions is; once upon a time, there used to be an Emperor who wanted to choose 12 animals for the Chinese zodiac, so he asked the animals to check in at the southern Heavenly Gate on the first day of the New Year and selected 12 animals as zodiac signs according to the order of their reports.
The final order of the 12 zodiac signs is Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. I’m sure you’ll have some questions about why these 12 animals arrived in the order they did, and why the rat was first. Legend has it that the Rat asked the Ox to take him on a ride across the river, but quickly jumped down and over the finish line before the Ox could get there. There are many a story about why the animals have their place in the Zodiac, so let’s find out together next time if we have the chance!