The Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, is coming up! Following the lunar calendar based on the moon, and the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, the Lunar New Year is a holiday full of family, joy, fun, and firecrackers!
Here are 10 ferocious facts about Chinese New Year 2022–the Year of the Tiger.
There are 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals
In ancient times, the Chinese legend goes, the Jade Emperor held a race among all the animals. The 12 first animals to cross the finish line would get to be honored forever as the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.
The 12 animals that finished first are the Chinese zodiac animals we know today. Here they are in order:
2022 is the Year of the Tiger
2021 was the year of the Ox, but now the time has come for Tiger to take the stage in 2022. Tigers are known as a symbol of strength and bravery, and people born in the year of the Tiger are said to have these traits as well. 2022 is going to be a good year for Tigers to get married, fall in love, or get promoted!
Chinese/Lunar New Year Follows the Lunar Calendar
Today, modern societies typically measure years and months by the sun: earth’s complete rotation around the sun is one year. However, many ancient societies first began to measure time by the phases of the moon! This is the origin of the lunar calendar.
Each “lunation”, or one moon cycle, is approximately 29.5 days, so the months of a lunar calendar alternate between 29 and 30 days. These subtle differences are why the Lunar New Year is on a different day each year, though it is usually from January 21-February 20 of each year.
Chinese New Year is Celebrated Worldwide!
This is an international fact about the Chinese New Year isn’t just for China or Chinese people. Countries across Asia and around celebrate this holiday with fireworks, firecrackers, parades, and family dinners. Because the Chinese New Year isn’t just celebrated in China, many people simply call it the Lunar New Year. Here’s how the Lunar New Year is celebrated in different places in the world:
- Eat banh chung (savory rice cakes)
- Launch firecrackers
- Visit ancestors’ graves to pay respects
- Lunar New Year parades and street fairs
- Lion dances and performances in China Towns
- Wear red
- Join a “fun run” race
- Traveling back home and respecting elders
- Set out food as a gift for ancestors
- Eat 떡국 (tteokguk) or rice cake soup
Chinese people consider Dragon the luckiest sign
Dragons are powerful, majestic, confident, intelligent, and enthusiastic. It’s no surprise that Chinese people view Dragon as the strongest and luckiest Zodiac year to be born under. Everyone wants a Dragon baby!
The last Dragon lunar years were 2000 and 2012 (the next one is 2024). In 2012, the BBC reported “In previous dragon years, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and countries such as Singapore with a strong Chinese diaspora have experienced baby booms. In 2000, Hong Kong saw a more than 5% rise in the number of births, according to official data.”
There is a famous Chinese idiom that may help explain the popularity of Dragons: 龙的传人 (lóngdechuánrén) means Descendants of the Dragon. This refers to the Chinese people and the Chinese nation: a majestic, confident nation just like a dragon.
Chinese Zodiac animals are also divided into five elements
In Western cultures, we believe there are only four elements: water, earth, air, and fire.
In Chinese culture, there are five: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. The Chinese zodiac animals are also divided this way. So you may be a fire rat, water ox, or wood dragon depending on the exact year you were born.
2022 is the year of the water tiger. Check your animal and element in the chart here:
Your luck in the New Year is controlled by the god “Tai Sui”
Whether you are a clever Rat or fierce Tiger, you will have to face the Chinese folk god Tai Sui 太岁. Tai Sui is a Chinese folk god from Chinese Daoist traditions.
There are 60 different Tai Suis–each one a slightly different god that helps the Jade Emperor keep order on earth in Chinese legend. Why 60? Because 12 zodiac animals times 5 elemental signs equal 60 (12×5=60) so this is the number of years Tai Sui has to keep track of.
If your Chinese zodiac sign conflicts with that year’s Tai Sui, you’ll have an unlucky year.
Who will offend Tai Sui and have bad luck in 2022? Tigers, Monkeys, Snakes, and Pigs will have to fight Tai Sui for good luck this year. Even though this is the Year of the Tiger, Tai Sui still doesn’t want to make things easy for you if you are a Tiger!
Some Chinese people will visit a temple and ask for a protection talisman to make Tai Sui happy in the new year.
The most common gift is hongbao
红包 hóngbāo, or Red Envelope, is a decorative envelope filled with money. It is usually given from the elder generation to children. Hongbaos can also be given as a work bonus to employees.
Lately, due the prevalence of WeChat, many Chinese people send virtual hongbaos to their friends on the app! In 2019, 823 million people sent or received hongbaos on WeChat!
Chinese give money and gifts in sets of 8
In Chinese superstition, 8 is the luckiest number– even living on the 8th floor and having a license place with 8s on it are considered very lucky! During Chinese New Year, elders and grandparents give money to children, and families exchange gifts of fruit and sweet treats. You’ll have extra luck for the new year if you give money and gifts in sets of 8.
Over Chinese New Year, it’s quite lucky to give money in sums of 88 or 888 RMB. If you give fruits or other gifts to relatives, make sure to give them in sets of 8!
Whatever you do, don’t give anything in sets of 4! This is the most unlucky number in China because it sounds like the Chinese word for “death.”
Luck is “upside-down” in the New Year
The word for “luck” in Chinese is 福 fú. It’s common for Chinese people to put posters with this character on their door over the New Year, but why is it always upside down?
This tradition supposedly emerges from the Ming Dynasty when a mix-up resulted in a peasant family putting the character 福 upside-down because they were illiterate and could not read the character. The empress realized the Chinese phrase “Luck is Upside-Down” (福倒了 Fú dàole) sounds exactly like the sentence “Luck has Arrived” (福到了 Fú dàole). From this time, it became a tradition to paste the character upside-down.
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