China celebrates its Lunar New Year on Saturday, February 10, marking the beginning of the Spring Festival.
The occasion is also observed in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines, as well as in Chinese communities in major cities around the world, notably in London's West End, the largest gathering of revelers outside of Asia.
A lunar year traces 12 complete cycles of the moon and lasts approximately 354 days, unlike our western solar year, which lasts 365 days according to the Earth's passage around the sun.
Each lunar year is attributed to a Chinese zodiac spirit animal, with 2024 marking the Year of the Dragon.
Here are five facts you might know about this annual celebration.
Fireworks are lit to banish monsters
Lunar New Year is a time full of symbolism.
Red paper lanterns and banners with poetic inscriptions are hung around the home because the color is considered an omen of good luck, while children often receive small amounts of money in envelopes of the same hue, a source of excitement and hilarity at family gatherings. .
Householders also carry out a thorough spring cleaning before Lunar New Year's Eve to rid their homes of the dust and dirt accumulated over the past year, with the aim of starting fresh.
Observers are advised to pay their debts for the same reason, but avoid tempting fate by cutting their hair or wearing white or black clothing, both of which are associated with mourning.
The season's superstitions also include fireworks held to banish the nian, a mythical beast that is half lion and half dragon. According to folklore, the monster, which is believed to attack children, is frightened by the noise and smoke from exploding rockets, flares and sparks.
The nian dance troupes that parade through city centers banging gongs and drums serve the same purpose, banishing an evil force from the land.
It is (generally) the largest annual human migration in the world
The Spring Festival is typically one of the busiest times of the year anywhere in the world, as people return home in droves to be with their families, just like Christmas or Thanksgiving in Western.
The holiday travel rush is known as “Chunyun”, with around 3 billion trips typically taken, although this was greatly reduced in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which is thought to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. before spreading around the world.
You can hire an escort
As with all large family gatherings, the pressure to impress is immense and the chance of parental disapproval is high.
In a society of traditional expectations and nuclear families, singles often fear the inevitable interrogation about their love lives at the dinner table.
But there is a new solution.
Chinese dating sites often offer fake dates for rent for between 500 and 6,000 Chinese renminbi (£57-£683), the perfect way to avoid overbearing and annoying parents.
The Great Race of the Jade Emperor Determined the Chinese Zodiac
According to Chinese mythology, the zodiac was created by the Jade Emperor, who invited the animals to cross the river and come to him on his birthday to discuss the formulation of the calendar, with the promise that the first 12 to arrive would be honored with a place on the steering wheel.
The cat and the mouse made a pact to go together, hitching a ride on the back of a heavy ox. The mouse pushed the cat into the water, jumped off the ox and won the Great Race. This is why the cat doesn't appear and is supposedly why cats have resented rodents ever since.
The ox came second, followed by the tiger and a rabbit, jumping over a log, the beast's passage was made easier thanks to a gust of wind blown by a dragon, which secured fifth place as compensation for this act of generosity.
A snake scared a horse into sixth place before a goat, a monkey and a rooster arrived by raft. The second to last arrival was the dog, who was supposed to be a natural swimmer but spent too much time bathing in the cold water.
The pig arrived last, arriving late because of its natural laziness, having stopped to stuff itself and rest.
2024 is the Year of the Dragon
February 2024 ends the Year of the Rabbit and welcomes the Year of the Dragon.
According to Chinese astrologer and Feng Shui consultant Janine Lowe, the Dragon comes with a lot of power and magic and will help you focus on getting what you really want.
She says: “The dragon has a lot of really positive things behind it because it is the main Chinese animal. But it's not something where you sit at home, knitting and watching Netflix – you need to get out of your chair and do what you need to do or what you want to happen. And there is every opportunity for that to happen this year.”
What does the Year of the Dragon mean to you? see more information here.