Happy Chinese New Year and welcome to the Year of the Sheep, which starts on February the 8th 2016 and it is the year of the Monkey.

As the festivities are about to get started we thought this would be a good time to take a look at how the Chinese New Year is celebrated in China and across the world. From the astounding fireworks in Mauritius to the hot pots in the regions of China, take a stroll through the ancient traditions that form one of the most amazing festivals in the world.

Monkey Chinese New Year

Beware of Nian

The Chinese New Year is one of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar and has its roots in ancient mythology. One of the legends tells of the mythical beast Nian, who would eat crops, animals and even people from a village on the first day of the New Year. Villagers would leave food outside their doors in an attempt to placate the beast. It was thought that once Nian had eaten, the villagers would be safe and protected. One day a god visited some of the people, telling them that Nian was scared of noise as well as the colour red, so if they put red paper and firecrackers on the door instead of food, it would save them. The people did just that and since that day Nian never returned.

Red Letter Day

The Nian legend is one of the main reasons why the colour red is considered to represent luck and prosperity. There is a strong tradition of giving money gifts in red envelopes to loved ones on special occasions such as weddings, births, and of course New Year. These envelopes are also intended to ward off evil spirits. The amount of money given usually ends in an even number, as odd values are traditionally associated with funerals and similarly, any amount that includes the number four would not be gifted as this number is considered unlucky. During New Year money envelopes are usually given by married people to the unmarried and should not be opened in front of relatives as this is impolite.

Crowds at Chinese New Year

Family gathering

New Year traditionally runs from the last day of the Chinese calendar to the fifteenth day of the first month, making it the longest festival of the year. Although there are many legends that surround this holiday one of the most important elements is to celebrate and honour the gods and ancestors. This is done with prayers and placing food and incense on altars in their homes. Central to these festivities is bringing the family together and due to the rush of everyone returning to the family home, it often means there are huge pressures on travel at this time of year. As so many roads get traffic jams, all journeys for this time should be planned well in advance.China tours at New Year


Food plays a huge role in the New Year celebrations, and once gathered, families will sit down together for the reunion dinner. Many dishes eaten during this time are consumed because of their symbolic meanings. With dumplings, for example, families will spend an evening together before the reunion dinner to make the dumplings. Whilst they are made a coin will be concealed in one of the dumplings, and whoever finds the coin whilst eating is thought to have good luck for the rest of the year.

Chinese family New Year


Celebrations can be found in pretty much every corner of the globe, including America, the UK, and Australia. New Yorkers hold a Lunar New Year street party with a parade and firecracker ceremony; if you are in New York over Chinese New Year, it really should be experienced. In London the festivities are some of the largest outside of China, with dragon dancers in the street, along with special menus and events in the restaurants around Leicester Square and Chinatown.

Chinese New Year celebrations

With the abundance of foods such as dumplings, sea weed and honey cakes, the displays of fireworks and street celebrations, wherever you choose to celebrate it’s sure to go with a bang.



Experience more of China’s customs and traditions

Choose from one of our popular Escorted Tours of China which include all flights, accommodation, transfers and entry fees.

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