Chinese New Year always falls on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar, which begins the day after the first new moon appears between 21 January and 20 February each year.

Celebrations often last over two weeks in China, and the festivities are marked by Chinese people and others from East Asia all across the globe. It is now mainly a non-religious (secular) festival, but it includes rituals and traditions from Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism as well as from ancient myths and folk stories. 


How is it Celebrated?

While it is unclear exactly when new year celebrations began in China, it is believed to have originated as early as 2,300BC with Emperors Yao and Shun.

At first the holiday was marked between mid-winter and early spring, however it soon adopted the solar calendar and relied on the moon phase to lock down the date.

One of the most famous traditional greetings for Chinese New Year is the Cantonese kung hei fat choi, literally meaning: “Greetings, become rich.”

In many Chinese cities, from New Year’s Day, traditional performances can be seen such as dragon dances and lion dances, and imperial performances like an emperor’s wedding. Red decorations, red wrapped gifts, and red clothes are everywhere at Chinese New Year.


New Year’s Eve starts with a family dinner, which will almost always take place in the home rather than a restaurant, and reunite family members. Family is a very important part of the whole festival. Dinner is followed be Shou Sui, which sees family members stay awake together during the night, launching crackling fireworks at midnight.

In the coming days, red envelopes with money is usually given by adults to children and it’s believed the packet will ward off evil and grant a long life.

The Yuan Xiao Festival, also known as the Lantern Festival, takes place on the 15th day, and sees people release paper lanterns into the skies.

The Chinese Zodiac

Each New Year is represented by a particular animal based upon a folk tale known as The Great Race. The order of the zodiac is said to be based upon the order the animals came in the race.  

What Does Each Chinese Zodiac Animal Mean?

The story goes that the animals raced each other to be the first to reach the Jade Emperor, so the years are named in the order in which they finished the race. The Rat is thought to have won by hitching a ride on the Ox’s back and jumping off at the last minute. This means the Ox, who had been due to win the race, had to settle for second place. According to the Chinese zodiac, there are both positive and negative characteristics associated with each of the 12 animals and people born in the year of each animal may have some of those qualities.


Here are the characteristics associated with all twelve signs, according to the Chinese zodiac.

Rat – People born in the year of the Rat are thought to be intelligent, crafty and optimistic. However, they may also be rude, ruthless or nervous.

Ox Those born in Ox years are meant to be honest, loyal and hard-working, but they can also be righteous, stubborn and judgemental, according to the zodiac.

Tiger -Tigers’ positive qualities include being kind, adventurous and enthusiastic. Their negative attributes can include being aggressive, short-tempered and anxious.

Rabbit –People born in the year of the Rabbit are believed to be clever, compassionate, and generous. However their kindness can be seen as weakness by some, and they are also thought to be vain and over-cautious.

Dragons – Dragons are believed to be brave, charismatic and natural leaders and some see the Dragon as the most desirable sign. However, they can also be inflexible, stubborn and they can lack willpower.

Snake -Those born in the year of the Snake are thought to be wise, sympathetic and intuitive. Negative characteristics associated with the sign include jealousy as well as being vain and materialistic.

Horse – Qualities thought to be linked with the Horse include honesty and talent with a desire to chase their dreams. However, they are also meant to be overconfident, impatient and short-tempered.

Goat or Sheep – Goats or Sheep are considered to be resilient, strong and compassionate.But they can also be indecisive, anxious and disorganised.

Monkey – Those born in the Year of the Monkey are believed to have strengths including being charming, intelligent and confident. However, they are also thought to be impatient, arrogant and self-centred.

Rooster – Roosters are thought to be decisive, capable and honest. But this also means they can be insensitive, controlling and critical of others, some say.

Dog -Qualities associated with those born in the Year of the Dog are being loyal, brave and responsible. But the sign’s negative attributes include being too sensitive, stubborn and cynical.

Pig -Strengths of those born in the Year of the Pig include being intelligent, creative and compassionate. Weaknesses linked with the sign include being gullible, insecure and emotional.

When were you born? Do you have the characteristics of your Chinese zodiac animal?

Here is when each animal last occurred, and when they will come next:

  • Rat – 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032
  • Ox – 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, 2033
  • Tiger – 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022, 2034
  • Rabbit – 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023, 2035
  • Dragon – 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, 2036
  • Snake – 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025, 2037
  • Horse – 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026, 2038
  • Goat/ Sheep – 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027, 2039
  • Monkey – 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028, 2040
  • Rooster – 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029, 2041
  • Dog – 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030, 2042

Pig – 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031, 2043