Now, why would a nice girl like me be writing about holiday like Chinese New Year?
It just so happens that my brother lives in China (and has lived there for over 15 years), his wife is Chinese, and I had the good fortune to visit both of them in China many years ago.
So that makes me nowhere near an expert on this. But it does make me an interested party. Here are a few things I learned while trying to connect with my family halfway around the world.
Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday in China.
Every year, I call my brother on Christmas and every year I’m still surprised to hear that it’s just another day in China. Sure, they celebrate the secular aspects of Christmas but it’s not really a holiday like it is in the United States. The BIG holiday is Chinese New Year.
Not only does everything literally shut down for a week, but it’s celebrated with gifts and meals and parades and lots of food.
Chinese New Year falls on a different day every year.
This part is really complicated and not completely important unless you just like learning stuff.
Chinese New Year always falls somewhere from January 21 to February 20, typically on the second new moon after the winter solstice. It’s based on a lunisolar calendar which tracks days based on measurements of the phases of the moon and the position of the sun in the sky.
The typical calendar, which most of the world follows, is based on a solar or Gregorian calendar which tracks days based on the earth’s orbit around the sun.
Each Chinese New Year is represented by one of 12 zodiac signs.
You know how you go a Chinese restaurant and kill time by reading all signs on the paper placemat? Typically, you find the year of your birth and the corresponding animal that represents your sign. However, as mentioned above, the Chinese zodiac follows the year as dictated by the lunisolar calendar and NOT the typical solar calendar.
That means that if your birthday is in January or February, you might not be the sign you always thought you were (this is a good source for figuring our your Chinese zodiac animal).
2018 is the Year of the Dog, which just so happens to be my Chinese zodiac sign! Those that are born during the Year of the Dog are considered loyal, honest, responsible, courageous, and warm-hearted.
Why, thank you!
But it’s not all good stuff. If this year is the year of your zodiac animal, it’s considered the unluckiest of the 12 year cycle.
According to the Chinese, the color red can serve as your weapon of defense, whether in your home or on your body. If you see me wearing a lot of red this year, you’ll know why.
Red is an important color during Chinese New Year.
Speaking of red, why exactly is red so important when it comes to the Chinese?
Red is traditionally the color of happiness and also symbolizes good fortune and joy. In fact, during Chinese New Year, red envelopes are often filled with money and given to children as gifts.
Get your fill of dumplings during Chinese New Year.
I love Chinese food as long as it’s Chinese food in America. Yes, you can tell me that’s not real Chinese food but I’m okay with that. I’ve been to China. I’ve eaten their food. It’s not what you would expect (or necessarily want).
But during Chinese New Year, dumplings are THE thing to eat. I’ll eat just about anything if it’s shoved inside a dumpling. The Chinese eat them because dumplings represent wealth and good fortune, supposedly because they are shaped like ingots, or blocks of gold that were once used as ancient Chinese currency.
Chinese New Year Ends with a bang.
You think we have the lock on fireworks displays for the 4th of July? It’s nothing like what you’ll see on the first night of Chinese New Year. Fireworks and firecrackers are lit in abundance in hopes that the noise and light will scare off monsters and bad luck.
Dogs, fireworks, dumplings, and the color red – sounds like my kind of holiday. Even though I’ve never celebrated with my brother, I was sure to make plenty of dumplings this weekend in his honor.