Chinese New Year — Year of the Tiger, Traditions

Chinese New Year — Year of the Tiger, Traditions

By CindyUpdated Oct. 21, 2021

Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is China's most important festival. It is time for families to be together and a week of an official public holiday.

Chinese New Year 2022 will fall on Tuesday, February 1st, 2022, beginning a year of the Tiger. China's public holiday will be from January 31 to February 6, 2022.

  • Also called: 'Spring Festival', Lunar New Year
  • Chinese: 春节 Chūn Jié /chwn-jyeah/
  • 2022 date: Tuesday, Feb. 1st, Tiger
  • 2023 date: Sunday, Jan. 22nd, Rabbit
  • Holiday: 7 days 
  • Celebrations: New Year decorations, New Year's Eve dinner, firecrackers and fireworks, red envelopes, dragon dances...

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When is Chinese New Year 2022?

Chinese New Year 2022 will fall on Tuesday, February 1st, 2022. Read more on Chinese New Year dates from 2022 to 2030.

The date of Chinese New Year is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar. Chinese New Year is the first day of the lunar calendar and always a new moon day (the second new moon after the winter solstice).

Chinese New Year’s date changes every year but is always somewhere in the period from January 21st to February 20th.

What is the Chinese New Year Animal for 2022?

Each Chinese year is associated with an animal sign according to the Chinese zodiac cycle, which features 12 animal signs in the order Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

2022 is a year of the Tiger. The recent and incoming Tiger years are 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, and 2022. If you were born in one of these years, your Chinese zodiac sign is the Tiger. 

These zodiac signs always begin on Chinese Lunar New Year's Day, rather than January 1st!

Chinese Calendar 2022 is a year of the TigerThe Chinese zodiac gives each year an animal sign.

Why is it called the Spring Festival?

Though being in winter for most of China, the Chinese New Year is popularly known as the Spring Festival in China. Because it starts from the Beginning of Spring (the first of the twenty-four terms in coordination with the changes of Nature) and marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

The Spring Festival marks a new year on the lunar calendar and represents the desire for a new life.

Chinese New Year Origin: Legend of Beast Nian

chinese new year enjoys a long history

Chinese New Year has a history of over 3,000 years. A popular legend tells of the mythical beast Nian (/nyen/, which sounds the same as 'year' in Chinese), which shows up every New Year's Eve to eat people and livestock. To scare away the monster, people displayed red paper, burned bamboo, lit candles, and wore red clothes. These traditions have been continued until the present time.

Read more on:

How to Say "Happy New Year" in Chinese

happy new year in chinese

When people meet friends, relatives, colleagues, and even strangers during the festive period, they usually say “Xīnnián hǎo” (新年好), literally meaning 'New Year Goodness', or “Xīnnián kuàilè” (新年快乐), meaning ‘Happy Chinese New Year’.

One of the most famous traditional greetings for Chinese New Year is the Cantonese kung hei fat choi, literally ‘happiness and prosperity’. In Mandarin that’s gongxi facai.

新年好 — Happy New Year

  • In Mandarin: xīn nián hǎo /sshin-nyen haoww/

  • In Cantonese: san nin hou

恭喜发财 — Happiness and prosperity 

  • In Mandarin: gōng xǐ fā cái /gong-sshee faa-tseye/

  • In Cantonese: gong hay fat choy

For more greetings and wishes, see 

Chinese New Year Food

Lucky food is served during the 16-day festival season, especially on the New Year's Eve family reunion dinner. Fish is a must as it sounds like 'surplus' in Chinese and symbolizes abundance. Dumplings shaped like Chinese silver ingots are shared as a sign of the family unit and prosperity. People eat Niángāo (glutinous rice cake) to symbolize a higher income or position as it sounds like 'year high'. 

Chinese New Year Food

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Chinese New Year Traditions       

China’s Spring Festival is rich in tradition and customs. The main Chinese New Year activities include 1) putting up decorations, 2) eating reunion dinner with family on New Year's Eve, 3) firecrackers and fireworks, 4) giving red envelopes and other gifts, and 5) watching lion and dragon dances.

1. Cleaning and Decorating House

People decorate houses with red lanterns and red couplets.

People give their houses a thorough cleaning before the Spring Festival, which symbolizes sweeping away the bad luck of the preceding year and making their homes ready to receive good luck.

Red is the main color for the festival, as red is believed to be an auspicious color. Every street, building, and house where Spring Festival is celebrated is decorated with red. Red Chinese lanterns hang in streets; red couplets are pasted on doors; banks and official buildings are decorated with red New Year pictures depicting images of prosperity. 

Most public decoration is done a month before, but home decoration is traditionally done on Chinese New Year's Eve.

2. Enjoying a Family Reunion Dinner on New Year's Eve

Chinese new year reunion dinner

Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) is a time for families to be togetherChinese New Year's Eve is the most important time. Wherever they are, people are expected to be home to celebrate the festival with their families.

The Chinese New Year's Eve dinner is called 'reunion dinner', and is believed to be the most important meal of the year. Big families of several generations sit around round tables and enjoy the food and time together.

Like people waiting in New York Times Square to see the ball dropping, Chinese people have the custom of staying up late on Chinese New Year's Eve to welcome the new year's arrival. After reunion dinner, families normally sit together to watch the Spring Festival Gala, one of the most-watched TV shows in China. 

3. Setting Off Firecrackers and Fireworks

Setting Off Firecrackers on Chinese new year

It has long been a Chinese tradition to set off firecrackers from the first minute of the New Year. Fireworks have increasingly been added to the cacophony. From public displays in major cities to millions of private celebrations in China's rural areas, setting off firecrackers and fireworks is an indispensable festive activity.

Billions of fireworks go up in China at 12 am and in the first minutes of Chinese New Year, the most anywhere at any time of year.

4. Exchanging Chinese New Year Gifts and Red Envelopes

Giving Chinese New Year Red Envelopes to children

The most common gifts are red envelopes. Red envelopes have money in, and are given to children and (retired) seniors. Red envelopes are used in the hope of giving good luck (as well as money) to the receivers. App-sent/received "red envelopes" appeared in recent years. 

Other popular New Year gifts are alcohol, tea, fruits, and candies.

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5. Watching Lion and Dragon Dances

watching lion dance during chinese new yearLion dance

Lion dances and dragon dances are widely seen during Chinese New Year celebrations and other Chinese traditional, cultural, and religious festivals. They are performed to bring prosperity and good luck for the upcoming year or event.

How to Celebrate the Chinese New Year: Schedule

The celebration of Chinese New Year traditionally lasts for 16 days, from Chinese New Year's Eve to the Lantern Festival, but preparations often start half a month before. There are several important days with specific activities and traditions. Here is a short summary to let you know the schedule of the main days of the Chinese New Year period:

Chinese New Year celebration

Chinese New Year Superstitions: Things You Mustn't Do

Chinese people traditionally believe that the year's start affects the whole year, so China’s Spring Festival is a season of superstitions. It's believed that what something looks like (color, shape), and what its name sounds like, gives it auspicious or ill-fated significance. There are many things you cannot do:

  • Don't sweep up on New Year's Day, otherwise you’ll 'sweep all your luck away'.
  • Don't eat porridge for breakfast, otherwise you’ll 'become poor in the upcoming year'.
  • Don't wash your clothes and hair (on New Year’s Day), otherwise you’ll 'wash fortune away'.

See more on Chinese New Year Taboos and Superstitions: Top Things You Should Not Do.

FAQs about Chinese New Year

1. Why Is Chinese New Year So Important?

Chinese New Year’s importance is rooted deep in history, and today it remains the most important occasion for generations of families to reunite and spend time together. The celebration is also believed to be significant to ensure good fortune for the coming year. Learn the interesting stories and legends about Chinese New Year.

2. How Long Does Chinese New Year Last For?

16 days. Chinese New Year celebrations typically start on the evening before the new moon (Chinese New Year’s Day), and end on the evening of the full moon 15 days later (Lantern Festival). Chinese people enjoy a 7-day public holiday (Chinese New Year’s Eve to New Year day 6). See the calendar of Chinese New Year.

3. Why Is Chinese New Year Celebrated?

The festival signals (preempts) the beginning of spring and the start of a new year in the natural/farming world, according to the traditional Chinese calendar. Nowadays the main two reasons for the festival are: to celebrate a year of hard work, have a good rest, and relax with family; and to wish for a lucky and prosperous coming year. 

4. Who Celebrates Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is mainly celebrated in China and Asian countries influenced by Chinese culture like Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and regions with significant Chinese populations, like in North America and Europe.

Read more on FAQs about Chinese New Year You Must Want to Know Answers To.

Chinese New Year Travel — Top Tips from Our Experts

Domestic China trips are allowed in China (except for areas with medium or high risk). For more latest travel information such as where you can travel and what you will need, please see: China Travel Restrictions: China Expat Travel and Entry Policy
dragon dance during Chinese New YearAt Chinese New Year, you can see many things in China that you wouldn't normally, like dragon dances.

The festive period is one of the best times of the year to interact with Chinese people, and experience the local culture. However, it is also the busiest time of the year on China's transportation network. So, you might want to avoid the transport stress or seek out China's New Year culture, or both...

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