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Chinese new year celebration
Small Business and Self-Employed

Chinese New Year: What Is It and How Is It Celebrated?

Chinese New Year is an annual holiday celebrated by Chinese communities throughout the world. It begins with the new moon, which on a Western calendar falls anywhere between January 21 and February 20. Celebrations continue till the full moon after that.

During the festivities, people enjoy meals with their families, take part in parades, and make wishes for a prosperous new year.

Other Names For Chinese New Year

Because the dates of the celebrations correspond to the phases of the moon, many refer to the festival as the Lunar New Year. People in China get seven consecutive days off work over the Chinese New Year. Chinese people often refer to this vacation time as the Spring Festival as it marks a transitional point into springtime.

How Do People Celebrate in China?

Celebrations begin as the second new moon rises after the winter solstice.

The focus is on saying goodbye to the old year and making amends for any of the bad things or situations you encountered. The emphasis is on asking forgiveness so that you can enter a new year with a clean slate, ushering in a year of better fortune, luck, and prosperity.

There are celebratory dinners held with the family - the associated foods around the new year hold tremendous importance and significance to Chinese families. 

For example, many families serve up ‘longevity noodles’; extra-long noodles to symbolize a long and happy life. Families also make a point of serving fish, because the word for fish in Chinese (Yu) sounds like ‘surplus’. 

For good luck, people decorate their homes red, and they present money to kids in bright red envelopes. Red is a color steeped in meaning for Chinese people, relating to vibrancy, fire, prosperity, and the nation itself.

There are also outdoor shows with firecrackers, pyrotechnics, and gyrating, dancing dragons.

Around the festival, China’s transport systems often come to a standstill as Chinese families travel, sometimes thousands of miles, to spend time together with the ones they love.

The culmination of the festival ends with a glorious lantern festival marking the new full moon. This aspect of the festival serves to commemorate deceased ancestors, promoting peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness.

Zodiac Signs

The Chinese New Year marks a transition to a different animal within the Chinese Zodiac - an ever-repeating 12-year astrological cycle in which we pair a zodiac animal with each year.

The Chinese Zodiac is an ancient belief system considered to be a factor in determining destiny. The zodiac sign in which you were born alongside the current zodiac sign is supposed to have various ramifications for your life.

For example, tigers are strong, powerful creatures. Therefore, we link the tiger sign to those who are born leaders. Individuals with this sign exhibit bravery and warmth of heart. Each animal has its associated characteristics, while there is a broader belief that you can find better relationships with others depending on their zodiac animal and the lunar cycle. 

Origins of the Chinese New Year Festival

Chinese New Year is believed to have originated during the Shang dynasty, which ruled in the 14th century BC.

Its beginnings are shrouded in myth. According to one legend, a monster by the name of Nian (Year) would attack locals at the beginning of each year. Nian was terrified of red, bright lights, and loud noises. The villagers then supposedly used these things to drive the beast away.

Since the dragon is a Chinese symbol of strength and fortune, dragon dancing—during which a long, vibrant dragon puppet is paraded through the streets—is a popular celebration in many parts of the nation.

In order to remove any ill luck from the previous year, individuals extensively clean their homes around the new year, too.

In short, the current form of festivities comes from a mix of sources and traditions. You'll find differences in customs across the Chinese diaspora, too. 

Chinese New Year celebrations around the world

Celebrations Around the World

In Vietnam, they call the festival 'Tet', a shortened version of the Vietnamese name meaning, "Festival of the First Morning of the First Day"

People tidy up their homes and add fresh flowers such as peach blossoms and kumquat trees. The pink of the peach flower symbolizes energy while the kumquat trees represent prosperity.

Seollal is a three-day festival celebrated in both North and South Korea. In a tradition known as Charye, Korean families offer food to their ancestors in order to get their blessings for the upcoming year.

Mongolians refer to the festival as Tsagaan Sar. People worship at stone heaps that act as altars or shrines.

Outside Asia, many of the world’s cities feature various celebrations, especially in places that have a Chinatown where people of Asian or Chinese origin congregate to celebrate in their distinct styles.

The Connection to Money

Chinese New year is inextricably linked to money because of the focus on prosperity and fortune in the future.

Chinese families give each other gifts of hongbao (red envelopes) containing money.

In Cantonese, the common greeting at New Year is ‘Gong Hei Faat Choy’, meaning ‘I wish you prosperity’.

The nature of turning over a new leaf and starting afresh means that many see the period preceding Chinese New Year as a great time to get their finances in order, pay off any debts, and start the new year with a clean balance sheet.

The need to see a focal point in the year as a time to get things in order financially is something we can all relate to, whether it’s New Year resolutions in January, Chinese New Year, or the End of the Financial Year (EOFY) period and associated tax season.

Grow Your Business with QuickBooks

QuickBooks Can Help

If you want to gain a holistic view of your finances to make sure they are in order for the Chinese New Year, try QuickBooks' powerful accounting software and find out how you can manage everything in one place. 

For small and medium business owners, the software includes many features that can help give you confidence in your bookkeeping

Intelligent reporting helps you prepare for the future by forecasting incomings and outgoings alongside sophisticated cash flow management. This lets you transition into a new year fully informed on the state of your finances.

Check out the different pricing plans to find a solution that works for you. 

Wherever you are in the world, we wish you a Happy Chinese New Year!

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