Chinese New Year: The Essentials

With a population of approximately 1.3 billion and its emergence as an economic superpower, it’s no wonder that China and its most important holiday, Chinese New Year, receive so much global attention. So what do you need to know?

1. When is it?

Chinese New Year’s Day is on Monday 8th February in 2016, with many celebrations starting the evening before. It is based on lunar and solar calendars, so the exact date changes, but is always some time late January to mid-February.

This is the biggest and longest celebration of the Chinese calendar, officially ending with the Lantern Festival 15 days later! Most Chinese, however, will have 7 days official holiday away from the office.

Remember that Chinese New Year is celebrated in many other countries with large Chinese populations, such as Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.


2. What is it all about?

The holiday is also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year.

There are many legends about the origins of Chinese New Year, but now it is essentially a time for family, a time to leave behind the past year and to hope for a prosperous one to come.

The Chinese believe that it is very important to have the best start possible, as it will influence the whole year ahead. This has led to many superstitions. For example, washing your hair on the first day or two of the New Year should be avoided, as the water also washes away your good luck. If you happen to have Chinese guests over for breakfast, certainly don’t serve porridge – this is considered a food of poor people and so is inauspicious. Fish, on the other hand, sounding like the Chinese word surplus, is welcome on the menu as it suggests an abundance of prosperity ahead!


3. What’s this Year’s Animal?

Each year in the Chinese calendar is represented by one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. This is the year of the Monkey.

Years of the Monkey: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

Those born in the year of the Monkey are thought to be fun loving, energetic, intelligent, charming and inventive. On the flip side, they are sometimes said to be wily, opportunistic and even a little mischievous…!


4. What will the Year of the Monkey hold for you?

According to Chinese astrologers (and without wanting to promise you too much), this is supposed to be a year of innovation and economic growth. This is also a year for being open to positive change and taking calculated risks. Remember, that Monkey is creative and smart!

Apparently you will be extra lucky if you are involved in anything associated with water and if you work in industries such as shipping, banking and tourism.


5. How will my Chinese friends and colleagues celebrate?

The most important feature of Chinese New Year Eve is gathering with family members to enjoy a sumptuous meal together.

 It is customary to first clean the house thoroughly to clear away any problems or bad luck from the year being left behind. Homes are decorated, especially with the lucky colour red, to invite in luck and prosperity for the year to come.

Red envelopes containing money are given to family (especially children), close friends and even employees. The true gift is supposed to be in the good blessing and wishes represented by the red paper.

Also expect Chinese New Year to be noisy – people light firecrackers to frighten away evil spirits.


6. How do I wish my Chinese colleagues or clients a Happy New Year?

Whilst some regions still favour Cantonese (do check if you have specific friends/ clients), if in doubt, the majority of Chinese speak Mandarin. One reliable expression is: Gong Xi Fa Cai

Tip: You Tube is excellent for videos on pronunciation if you need to speak it rather than write it!

Also, for personal notes, do take care to write a thoughtful expression of your good wishes for the New Year rather than simply ‘Happy New Year’. This will be appreciated.

For those in London, there are plenty of ways to get involved, with main parade being held on Sunday 14th February 2016 –