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February 2016

Chinese New Year Facts You May Not Have Known

How Chinese New Year is Celebrated Throughout February

While the official start of Chinese New Year has since passed (it occurred on February 8, 2016), the celebrations have just reached a mid-point. Chinese New Year celebrations, particularly for those living in China, actually begin on January 31 and end during the Lantern Festival on February 22.

Pre-gaming the Lunar New Year

There's a lot of preparation prior to Chinese New Year's Day. Starting on January 31, houses are cleaned and New Year shopping is conducted. For those in China, this shopping period is one of the busiest of the year. Of items purchased, the most popular are food items, decorations, and clothing.

Traditional Chinese New Year's Eve activities include dinners with family, a reunion of sorts, as well as the giving of red envelopes. Known also as "lucky money", these envelopes are said to bring good health and luck (red being a lucky color) for the remainder of the year. Decorations like paper cutouts, paintings, and New Year couplets (those long banners of Chinese characters) are put up.

Chinese New Year’s Day

If you've celebrated Chinese New Year's Day in your home country, you know what to expect. Fireworks are set off in the streets, covering sidewalks with red paper and scaring off the fiendish lion named Nian (or the "yearly beast"). Offerings are placed upon shrines, and Chinese lion and dragon dances are held to the beating of loud drums.

The start of the New Year and the Lantern Festival

During the first few days of Chinese New Year, family members pay visits to relatives. Houses are swept after the first two days and not prior, so as to not sweep away any good luck brought about by the celebrations.

Chinese New Year celebrations officially end with the Lantern Festival, occurring this year on February 22 (the 15th day of the first month). Beautiful red lanterns are sent into the sky and upon bodies of water during this last day of the Spring Festival, a tradition dating back 2,000 years. What makes this night even more stunning is the occurrence of the year's first full moon.

Chinese New Year around the world

While Chinese New Year is obviously a big deal in China, it’s also widely celebrated around the world. Celebrations in London are the largest outside of China, involving over 300,000 participants for a day of merriment in the country's capital. Chinatown is decorated with stalls, a grand parade weaves through the streets, and performances are held in Trafalgar Square.

In North America, the largest celebration can be found in San Francisco with celebrations dating back to the 1860s, during the period known as the Gold Rush. A dragon over 61-meters long winds its way down the city's most prominent streets along with dancers, Chinese lions, floats, and musicians. During the day, a street festival is held in the United States' most iconic Chinatown.

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Picture (c) Fotolia, Maksim Shebeko