Chinese New Year Fun Facts
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Happy Year of the Horse!1 of 12
By Brienne Walsh
January 31 marks the start of the Chinese New Year, beginning a 15-day celebration filled with family, food and tradition. To help you take part, we've rounded up 11 surprising facts about the annual festival.
Origin Story2 of 12
According to legend, a mythical lion-like monster called Nian (also the Chinese word for "year") once preyed on villagers. A wise old man counseled the villagers to ward off the evil Nian by making loud noises with drums and bamboo sticks that crackled with fire. He also advised hanging red paper cutouts and scrolls on their doors because Nian is scared of the color red. The villagers took the old man's advice and the Nian was conquered.
Ancient History3 of 12
Although there's no consensus on when the New Year tradition began, many say the festival began in the 3rd century B.C. with the Yellow Emperor, a leader considered to be the initiator of Chinese civilization, and the originator of the centralized state. The Chinese New Year is numbered after his death. Scholars disagree on which numerical Chinese New Year is now beginning, but the number is somewhere around 4712.
Counting the Days4 of 12
While the Western Gregorian calendar is based on the Earth's orbit around the sun, China and most Asian countries use the lunar calendar, based on the moon's orbit around the Earth. Chinese New Year always falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, and ends on the full moon 15 days later.
Animal Planet5 of 12
There are several stories about how the 12 animals of the zodiac were chosen. In one, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on New Year's Day because he was near death. Only the dog, pig, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey and rooster came. Buddha honored each by naming a year of the zodiac after them. According to tradition, we share some traits of the animal that corresponds to the year we were born in.
RELATED ON GLO: Which Animal Are You?
Giddy-Up!6 of 12
This is the Year of the Horse, which means that anyone born under the sign will have a year of financial success and luck. Horses in general like to volunteer for humanitarian organizations, go to parties, and constantly challenge themselves in their careers.
RELATED ON GLO: How to Bring the Year of the Horse Home
Prep Work7 of 12
Because the New Year is a fresh start, people do a thorough clean of their homes and their bodies before it begins. One tradition is to cut your hair, because doing so during the 15-day New Year itself is bad luck, thanks to the close nature of the Chinese words for "hair" and "prosperity."
Fire Away8 of 12
Today, rather than lighting bamboo sticks on fire as was once the tradition, celebrants set off fireworks on New Year's Eve, filling the streets with non-stop streams of light and color.
Family Fun9 of 12
On New Year’s Eve, there is a big family reunion dinner. Known as the spring movement or Chunyun, a great migration takes place in China during this period where many travelers brave the crowds to get to their hometowns.
Cashing In10 of 12
In honor of the New Year, children receive red envelopes full of money. The amount they receive is usually an even number. The amount cannot be divisible by four. In Chinese, the number four means death.
Let's Eat11 of 12
A number of foods are considered good luck, including long noodles (for long life), tangerines and oranges (the Chinese words for "gold" and "orange" sound alike, signaling wealth and good luck), long leafy greens (to bring good health to parents), and dumplings (whose plump shapes symbolize great wealth).
Light the Way12 of 12
On the last day of Chinese New Year, a Lantern Festival takes place, in which everyone carries beautiful paper lanterns and walks along the streets, lighting the way for the New Year. The highlight of the Lantern Festival is the Dragon Dance. Beautiful dragons made of paper, silk and bamboo are held overhead, and appear to dance as they make their way along the parade routes.
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