What is Chinese New Year?

A map of China.
Chinese around the world celebrate Chinese New Year.
Korea is one of the countries that celebrate the lunar New Year.
Fireworks ring in the Chinese new year.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Pavalena, Guillaume Baviere, Lesniewski, Jose Ignacio Soto
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2014
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In many parts of Asia, nations follow the lunar calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar used by the rest of the world. As a result, the year starts on a different day, usually in January or February by the Gregorian calendar. Many nations including Vietnam and Korea celebrate the lunar New Year with festivals and special foods. The Chinese, however, have turned the celebration into an art form: a 15 day festival called the Spring Festival in China, although it is known to the rest of the world as Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year begins on the first day of the first moon of the year, which is considered to be a particularly auspicious day. Children are given hong bao, lucky red envelopes full of money, and households exchange visits and gifts. Most celebrants at Chinese New Year wear red, which is a lucky color, and also refrain from reflecting on the past year and uttering unlucky words, as it is believed that the first day of the new year will determine your fortune in the months to come.


Chinese New Year continues with 15 days of celebration and auspicious days, including a day to welcome the god of wealth, a day to celebrate farming and produce, and days to celebrate friends and family. Friendships and family relationships are a very important part of Chinese New Year, and a great deal of food and dinner invitations are exchanged as part of this tradition. Numerous lucky foods are served throughout the Chinese New Year festival, and after all that rich dining, the 13th day of the festival is set aside for eating rice and bitter greens to cleanse the palate.

On the 15th day, the Chinese New Year celebration culminates with the Lantern Festival, which is traditionally held at night. During the Lantern Festival, hundreds of citizens flood the street with lanterns representing wealth, animals, historical figures, plants, and a variety of other things. The lanterns are paraded through towns and cities throughout China, Taiwan, and parts of the world with large Chinese communities. The Lantern Festival ends with a burst of fireworks to celebrate the upcoming year while celebrants eat special round dumplings to celebrate unity.

In Vietnam, the new year festival is known as Tet Nguyen Dan, and is celebrated for seven days. Much like Chinese New Year, Tet is believed to be an especially auspicious period in Vietnam which will establish the fortunes of celebrants for the coming year. Special foods are eaten and gifts are exchanged. In Korea, the one day festival is known as Sol-nal, and is a time to reflect on ancestors and family.


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