Chinese New Year (or as it’s known in China, “New Year”) is the most important holiday in Asian culture. Also termed Lunar New Year, the auspicious event is actually part of a 15-day celebration called the Spring Festival. Always in January or February, the exact date varies from year to year depending on its position in the Chinese lunisolar calendar. Each year is linked with one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. Galloping in on January 31, 2014: The Year of the Horse.
But enough chitchat. Let’s get this party started.
Just as in the West, New Year's Eve is a time for friends, family and festivity. Gifts are exchanged, foods prepared and eaten, celebrations abound—and the whole night ends with a bang. But whether your celebration is planned for New Year's Eve, New Year's Day or any other of the 15 days of Spring Festival, here are a few things you'll want to do.
- Clean house (duh). Sweeping away any bad chi/energy from the past year is crucial. Not recommended: Cleaning during the first few days of the New Year—you might sweep out the new good stuff along with the old bad stuff.
- Decorate with lots of red (the color of good fortune). Windows and doors may be hung with red paper-cuts and couplets displaying popular themes of good fortune and happiness. Large paper lanterns add a festive touch. And don’t forget to fill your home with flowers—real or faux—to ensure luck and prosperity in the coming year.
- Big idea: Take it up a notch (or actually down a notch) with a lower, traditional Asian-style table. Creating one might be easier than you think. Use end-table bases instead of a conventional dining-table base and cover with a tempered glass top. Scatter thick cushions for guests, and you’ve got a setting that’s a true ice-breaker. A cozy, casual ice-breaker.
- Serve up as many lucky foods as possible: Whole fish, noodles, mandarin oranges and tangerines, to name a few. Don't feel like cooking? Most Chinese restaurants offer special New Year menus. On New Year's Eve, families sit around the table and wrap dumplings in the shape of ancient Chinese silver and gold ingots, which symbolize wealth. A gold coin is tucked inside one dumpling and at midnight, the person who gets it is said to have good luck for the coming year.
- Launch fireworks at midnight. Constricted by pesky city ordinances? (Oh hello there, officer.) Tune into televised local or national displays instead. The Chinese believe the more fireworks, the luckier the New Year. And they should know. They invented the stuff.
- Karaoke. 'Nuff said.
- Have fun. Remember, the most important Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone. Gong hay fat choy!
For most people, birth year is all it takes to know whether you’re an adventurous Horse or a quick-witted Rat. Those born around the time of the New Year may need to consult a multiyear Chinese calendar to determine their exact astrological sign.
1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
Adventurous, witty, cheerful, agile
1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003
Tasteful, warm, shy, calm
1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004
Clever, versatile, lively, self-assured
1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005
Practical, flamboyant, meticulous, confident
1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006
Loyal, affectionate, steady, sociable
1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007
Honorable, philanthropic, optimistic, sincere
1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008
Intelligent, sociable, forthright, artistic
1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
Hardworking, reliable, strong, determined
1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
Enthusiastic, courageous, ambitious, charismatic
1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
Trustworthy, virtuous, modest, compassionate
1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
Lucky, imaginative, eccentric, vibrant
1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
Philosophical, intuitive, elegant, profound