Today we are celebrating the Chinese New Year. 2015 is the Year of the Goat (also referenced by some as a sheep or ram). Chinese New Year is marked at the end of the Chinese lunisolar calendar and is celebrated in various countries such as China, Taiwan and Mauritius to name a few. Welocalize has two offices in China, Beijing and Jinan.
Here are some facts you might like to know about Chinese New Year:
- 2015 is the Year of the Goat (or horned animal) in the Chinese Zodiac. The Chinese Zodiac (Sheng Xiao) is a twelve year cycle with twelve animals that represent a person’s character depending on the year they were born. People born in the year of the Goat are perceived as gentle, hardworking and persistent however also indecisive, timid and vain.
- Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year and the celebrations are centuries old. It is thought to have originated from the plight on a village at the hands of a beast called Nian. On the first day of the year, the beast would come to the village and eat the village’s crops, livestock and even children. A god in the form of an old man informed the villagers that Nian was afraid of noise, the color red, fire and strange creatures. The next time Nian visited the village the villagers let off fireworks and firecrackers, hung red lanterns outside their houses and made noises with drums and music. The children of the village where given masks of strange creatures to wear, protecting themselves from the beast. After that, Nian never visited the village again, however the rituals continue to this day.
- Chinese New Year spans 15 days (or longer in some communities) with different festivities happening on each days:
- On the second day, wives will visit their families, as traditionally the wife would live with her husband and his family, so rarely got to see her own. The second day is also thought to be the birthday of all dogs. Pets and strays alike are treated accordingly with lots of food.
- The fifth day is regarded as the god of wealth’s birthday, meaning that families should stay at home should he decide to visit.
- As a break from all the celebratory meals, the thirteenth day is reserved for eating only vegetarian food.
- The fifteenth day is the first full moon after the New Year. It is referred to as the lantern festival. Families carry lanterns in the streets, special sweet rice dumplings resembling the full moon are eaten and candles are lit to guide lost or evil spirits home.
- Traditions for the Chinese New Year include red envelopes that are given to children and teenagers with money inside. The color red symbolizes luck. Careful not to open the envelope in front of the giver as it is impolite. The theme of red is continued with people dressing in this color to warn away evil spirits. Fish is in abundance at Chinese New Year as eating it brings wealth and luck for this coming year.
- Chinese New Year is the busiest travel time in China as people flock to their hometowns to spend the holiday with their families. The Baidu Migration Map shows the migration during the holiday period mainly from eastern cities such as Beijing and Shanghai to the rest of China. Travelers have to endure three day waits for train tickets, crammed buses with stools along the aisles and standing in crowded trains for 20 hour stretches. This year 350 million people are expected to travel home, making it not just the world’s biggest human migration, but the biggest mammalian.
This celebration steeped in rich traditions and fascinating mythology is celebrated all over the world and not in Asia. California, London, Paris, Sydney and parts of Africa also take part in the New Year festivities. Wherever you are celebrating, Welocalize wishes you 15 days of health and happiness during this Chinese New Year.