Welcome to the Year of the Monkey!
It’s the end of the twelfth lunar month of the year, which means that today is the start of Chinese New Year!
This year is the year of the Monkey, the ninth out of twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac. It won’t happen again until 2028.
What are the Monkeys traits?
The Monkey is seen to be a quick-witted and sociable sign. People born under this sign (2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968) are seen to be a bundle of energy, with an uncanny ability to adapt to any situation. As an emotional character, they’re very sociable and self-assured, with a tendency to be hot-headed and show-offy.
But, despite the signs positive traits, the Monkey year of the lunar calendar is believed to be one of the most unlucky years.
Customs and traditions
Chinses New Year is a time steeped in rich traditions. So, as many of those travelling to their respected families (which is known as Chun Yun), let us look at the traditions that are displayed during this celebration.
Before the New Year
Prior to the proceedings, it is customary for the Chinese to make their houses look spick and span in order to mark a fresh start for the year.
Decorations adorn the house, including lanterns, bunting and posters containing couplets (duìlián). Red is a prominent colour during this holiday as it’s seen to be lucky and bring beauty, happiness, success and good fortune.
A house decorated in red for luck
A meal, known as Nian Ye Fan, is eaten. It includes the eating of dumplings when midnight strikes on the eve of the celebrations. The next 15 days are full and vary in activities and procedures.
CCTV New Year's Gala
Like Jools' Hootenanny but so much bigger, CCTV New Year's Gala is a televised variety show that is shown on the eve of the New Year. It has over 800 million viewers on average and features performers such as singers, comedians, skits and dance ensembles. Should you get the opportunity to celebrate the event in a household, you will probably be subjected to this broadcast which has been a staple of China since 1983.
A traditional Chinese dancer
For those lucky enough to be handed a red envelope (known as tao hongbao) during the festivities will be happy to know that they are usually stuffed with money. Considered good luck, the amount given can range in Yen but is generally an even amount and are mainly given to children by an older generation.
Red letters and other New Year Decorations
The observance dates back hundreds of years where an alleged murderous sea creature known as Nian (meaning year) attacked a village, causing the townsfolk to create a plan of action so it wouldn't happen again. They realised that they could combat the beast with the colour red, which the monster had an aversion to, as well as loud noises. For the latter, modern day revellers set off fireworks and firecrackers to ward off Nian.
The fireworks ring in the New Year
Closing the festivities on the 15th day is the Yuanxiao festival, during which lanterns light up China's cities and villages. The imagery of this year’s animal of the year is also displayed. A rabbit can also be seen, as it harks back to a folklore tale of Chang E who jumped to the moon accompanied by a rabbit. It is also seen as a day where young people find love and is generally considered the Chinese Valentine's Day.
Chinese lanterns hanging in the street
From us here at The Gap Year Travel Guide, Happy Chinese New Year!