Asian Cultures, Festivity, Food, History, Modern Chinese Culture, Tradition

Why is everything red? and 5 other questions you may be asking about Chinese New Year

1. Why is everything red?

According to Chinese folklore, the tradition is because of a monster called Nian (same pronunciation as “year” in Chinese), which used to terrorize villages around this time of the year. Luckily, people found out that Monster Nian could be scared off with the colour red and loud noises. Since then, red became the colour of the season. The sound of fire crackers, drums and gongs can also be heard everywhere. Here is one version of the story:

2. Why does the Chinese New Year happen on different days every year?

The day of the Chinese New Year is calculated by Lunar Calendar, which is based on the moon’s evolution around the earth such that each month starts on a new moon. The date of the Chinese New Year would be the second new moon after Winter Solstice (21st or 22nd of December), the longest night of the year. Usually it lands on a date between mid-January till late February.

3. What are red pockets?

Red pockets are essential to Chinese New Year

Red pockets are small red envelops with cash inside that represent a blessing. It is usually given by adult couples to children. Howe it can also be given by bosses or managers to their staff, or from someone of a higher social hierarchy to a lower one. Besides Chinese New Year, the red pockets are also given out on birthdays, weddings and other celebrations.

4. What do the tangerines and fish motifs mean?

In the Chinese language there are a lot of word play because many words have the same pronunciation. The word for fish, “Yu” sounds the same as “yu”, which means surplus. Likewise, the word for tangerine, “ji”, sounds the same as “ji” as in good luck. The two items, fish and tangerine, therefore, becomes auspicious objects that symbolize abundance and good fortune.

5. How is the year’s zodiac animal decided?

In Chinese calendar, every 12 years is a cycle, and each is represented by an animal. In the correct order, these are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. This year is the Year of the Pig. While it is hard to trace why these twelve animals were selected from their first written recorded dated to more than two thousand years ago, in folklore there is story on the reason for their order. You can find out about this story here:

6. How long is the official holiday for Chinese New Year? Do people still celebrate Christmas and 1st January in China?

The official public holiday for Chinese New Year last for an entire week. For this year, it is from the 4th to 10th February. Christmas is not an public holiday in China, though it is a highly commercialized day with restaurants and companies promoting Christmas specials. The 1st January is also a public holiday. If you know the answer to all of them, Congratulations! You are officially a Chinese New Year expert. In any case, come join our celebration at Cultural Café on the 2nd February!