You are probably aware that the annual celebration of Chinese New Year is on the horizon. However, how much do you actually know about Chinese New Year and what it means? Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about the holiday.
- Chinese New Year is celebrated on Saturday 28th January this year
This statement is not technically wrong, but neither does it do true justice to the extent of typical New Year’s celebrations. In fact, the celebrations begin before the first day of the New Year. In the week beforehand, many people will undertake a thorough “spring cleaning” of their home in order to prepare for the celebrations. Then, on the evening of New Year’s Eve, families will traditionally gather together for a large celebratory meal. In traditional households the celebrations will then last for 15 subsequent days, with a whole host of different traditions and festivities on each day. For example, the second day is all about socialising and going to visit friends and relatives, whereas on the third day it is considered unlucky to socialise, and so people tend to stay at home.
- 2017 is the year of the rooster
Again, there are 2 reasons why this isn’t quite right:
Firstly, the word rooster is not necessarily the best translation for the animal of the Chinese zodiac which is associated with this upcoming year. The Chinese word in question actually means a barnyard fowl of indiscriminate gender, and therefore could also be translated as “chicken”. When compared to some of the other more exciting animals in the Chinese zodiac, such as the dragon, you can perhaps see why they went with the slightly more impressive-sounding “rooster” as the common translation.
Secondly, 2017 is not, technically, the year of the Rooster. Although China has used the Gregorian calendar for over 100 years, the calendar that we are talking about here is the ancient Chinese lunar calendar, which, being based on the cycles of the moon, does not match up all that nicely to the more common solar calendar. In fact, the Chinese lunar calendar gets so out of sync that every so often they add in a leap month, just to keep it bearing some semblance of a relationship to the Gregorian calendar. This means that it is not as easy as saying that 2017 is the year of the rooster, as in fact the year of the rooster runs from 28th January 2017 until February 15th 2018.
- People born in the year of the rooster are likely to share certain traits
Many people are aware that, according to Chinese astrological beliefs, certain characteristics are often attributed to people born in particular years. However, the system is actually even more complex than that. In Chinese element theory, each lunar year is associated with one of the 5 elements: (fire, water, earth, wood, metal), which means that, for example, this coming year is a “Fire Rooster” year. People born as fire roosters will therefore have different characteristics to, say, earth roosters, and given that the calendar is a 12 year cycle, the gap between 2 of the same years, i.e. 2 fire roosters, is 60 years. Therefore the last year which saw the start of a fire rooster year was 1957.
Fire roosters are typically considered to be reliable, honest and responsible, with very good time management. Compare this to wood roosters, who are held to be full of energy to the point of unpredictability, and with a tendency towards overconfidence.
- A year of the Rooster is lucky for people born in other Rooster years
Nope. In fact, quite the reverse is true. If you were born a rooster, then the upcoming year is actually a potential source of misfortune, and according to tradition you should keep your head down, work hard and avoid any particularly risky ventures, as they likely will not turn out in your favour this year.
- Everyone exchanges presents of money
It is common at Chinese New Year to see people exchanging small envelopes in red (the lucky colour) filled with gifts of money. However, this practice is not universal. In fact, only children and people who are not married receive these packets of money, and the packets are only given out by people who are married. Other widely observed customs at New Year include decorating streets and houses with all kinds of lucky red items, depictions of the animal associated with that year and message wishing for health and prosperity in the coming year.
These are just a few examples of parts of the Chinese New Year tradition that people often don’t get quite right. Now known more widely as “Spring Festival” in modern China, it is celebrated throughout Asia and across the rest of the world by millions of people each year, and is associated with a rich heritage of traditions and customs.
We wish you a very happy year of the rooster.