5 things every Londoner needs to know about Chinese New Year


Also called Spring Festival or chunjie in Mandarin, Chinese New Year is celebrated by communities all over the world. Want to know more about the biggest festival in the Chinese calendar? Read on …


When is it?

The date is based on the Chinese lunar calendar, so it varies from year to year. In 2018, Chinese New Year’s day falls on 16th February. Each year also corresponds to one of 12 zodiac animals – this year it’s the Year of the Dog. Good news if you were born in a dog year (such as 1970, 1982 and 1994) … tradition says 2018 is going to be a lucky one for you!


What do people do to celebrate?

Putting up red decorations, setting off fireworks, paying tribute to your ancestors and giving your house a spring clean are all traditional activities. But for many people, the main event is a big family dinner called nianye fan on the eve of the lunar New Year. 


Food? I’m listening

So much food! Typical treats for Spring Festival include dumplings called jiaozi - legend has it that the more dumplings you eat during New Year celebrations, the more money you can make that lunar year. Fish is also a traditional dish: the Chinese word yu means both ‘fish’ and ‘abundance’ so it’s seen as lucky. There are sweet treats too: sticky rice balls called tangyuan and New Year rice cakes called niangao are both traditional to eat at this time of year. If that’s got your stomach rumbling, check out our Chinese New Year food guide.


What about gifts?

Traditionally, Spring Festival is a time when children receive hongbao or red envelopes from parents and relatives, filled with pocket money for them to spend in the New Year. Nowadays, there are even apps to send cash to your nearest and dearest. Some people also give presents, like zodiac animal-themed stuffed animals and other toys - even Lego’s jumped on the bandwagon for this year, releasing a special Year of the Dog set.


What happens in London?

If you’re spending Chinese New Year in the UK capital, you definitely won’t miss out on the festive fun – there’ll be parades, performances and all kinds of other stuff going on. Check out our what’s on guide to Chinese New Year in London for inspiration!

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