Happy New Year! No, we don’t have our dates mixed up. It’s not the new year we’re used to, but the Chinese New Year, which can fall any time between January 21 to February 21— on the second New Moon after the winter solstice.
In 2020, the Chinese New Year is celebrated on January 25th, 2020.
The year 2020 will be the Year of the Rat, and according to the Chinese calendar, this isn’t 2020 but rather 4718 because the Chinese calendar is different from our Gregorian calendar. So what are these Chinese New Year celebrations all about?
The Chinese New Year is a fifteen-day celebration marked by visits to relatives, the wearing of new clothes, and the giving of gifts. Chinese poetry is pasted around doorways and a huge feast consisting of eight dishes (8 being a lucky number to the Chinese) is served. The New Year celebration ends on the Full Moon on the fifteenth day with a Lantern Festival, which includes lantern displays and the famous dragon dance.
If you’re wondering why this is the Year of the Rat, it all starts with the Chinese calendar, which is based on a 12-year solar and lunar (“solunar”) cycle. Each of the 12 years is represented by a different animal in the Chinese Zodiac: rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig.
If you happen to be born during the Year of the Rat, you are known for your originality and initiative; you’re intelligent, energetic, trustworthy, hardworking, loyal, a perfectionist, easily angered but forgiving. And you love to gamble.
Actually, no. Though it would seem that a rat year would be an auspicious time for rats, Chinese astrologers say these tend to be unlucky years, and you should be cautious during years that match your zodiac sign. Not necessarily a portent of bad luck, just that you should be more careful about finances, careers, and relationships. In China, many will even go so far as to wear red each day of the year to help ward off bad luck! (Read to the end to learn 9 Chinese New Year superstitions!)
Whatever your sign, the year 4718 is a great time to learn from the hardworking example that the Rat sets for us.
The Chinese zodiac is divided into twelve yearly cycles with each year identified by a particular animal. Certain characteristics are inherent in each year.
Years: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020…
Traits: Known for originality and initiative; intelligent, energetic, trustworthy, hardworking, loyal, perfectionist, easily angered but forgiving. Loves to gamble.
Years: 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021…
Traits: Patient, persistent, leader, orderly, cheerful, good speaker, somewhat, stubborn, easily angered, alert mentally. Cautious in dealing with people.
Years: 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022…
Traits: Courageous, aggressive, candid, compassionate, likes flattery, virtuous, very friendly, deep thinker, very logical, gentle, kind.
Years: 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023…
Traits: Talented and articulate, thrifty, very affectionate, diplomatic, tactful, peace lover, good financial mind, seldom ill-tempered. Very sentimental.
Years: 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024…
Traits: Good sense of humor, very sincere, soft hearted, has strong opinions, honest, brave, passionate, inspires trust, healthy, willing to help others, eager to learn.
Years: 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025…
Traits: Very wise, beautiful mind and body. Fickle, affectionate, seldom discouraged. Strong willed, good organizer, intelligent and knowledgeable.
Years: 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026…
Traits: Extremely independent, artistic, loves music, drama, and literature, strong-willed, energetic, strives for perfection, optimistic and loving.
Years: 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027…
Traits: Elegant in dress, creative, shy, easily led, religious, exercises good taste, easy to please, sometimes pessimistic, loves art, good thinker, friendly.
Years: 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028…
Traits: Very clever, charming, loves to read. Enthusiastic, skillful. Has good common sense, loves adventure and travel. Talkative, agile and has a good memory.
Years: 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029…
Traits: Honest, good worker, self-confident, ambitious, deep thinker, realistic. Excellent foresight, not easily discouraged. Outspoken and frank.
Years: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030…
Traits: Loyal, dependable, honest, good executive, sense of humor. Very generous, always helping others. Outgoing, good leaders, artistic, gentle and kind.
Years: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031…
Traits: Chivalrous and gallant, honest, great thirst for knowledge, dislikes arguments, kind, well-liked, calm. A slow but careful nature, easy-going manner.
(From the 1980 Farmers’ Almanac)
1. Housecleaning should be done before the Chinese New Year’s Day to sweep away bad luck from the previous year. No sweeping or dusting is allowed on New Year’s Day so that good fortune will not be swept away.
2. All doors and windows must be open at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve to allow the old year to escape. It also allows the good luck of the New Year to enter.
3. Setting off firecrackers on New Year’s Eve scares away evil spirits while sending out the old year and welcoming the new one.
4. Precedents are set on New Year’s Day. Therefore, nothing should be loaned on this day, or else the lender will be loaning all year. Mischievous children are never spanked on this day to avoid tears destined to last the whole year through.
5. Do not use references to death or the past, use foul language and unlucky words, or the telling of ghost stories, which are taboo on this day.
6. Children are given red packets or envelopes containing even numbered amounts of money since odd numbered amounts of money are traditionally given during funerals. (Odd and even numbers are determined by the first digit. For instance, “30” is an odd number.) The only exception to the rule is that $4 is never given, as the number four is bad luck — the Chinese word for “four” is a homophone for the word “death.” Eight dollars is commonly given, as the number 8 is considered good luck.
7. Hair washing is forbidden, as it washes away good luck for the New Year. Haircuts are received before the New Year begins since it is thought cutting hair during the first lunar month of the year places a curse on maternal uncles.
8. Knives and scissors may not be used because they may cut off fortune.
9. Celebrants wear red to scare away evil spirits and bad fortune and ensure a bright future. Black and white should not be worn as black symbolizes bad luck, and white is a Chinese funeral color. People dress in all new clothes and shoes to symbolize a new beginning for the New Year.
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