Lunar New Year – also referred to as Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival – is one of the largest celebrations in the world. Celebrated by over 1.5 billion people, you’ll see red lanterns, red envelopes, dumplings, rice cakes, the lion dance, the dragon dance and more.

You know how the celebrations go down, but you might not realise the significance of the festival. There’s a reason why Metricon loves throwing a Lunar New Year event in Australia each year – it’s such a special celebration to share with our culturally diverse customer base and employees.

As we approach the Year of the Rat, it’s the perfect time to explore the Lunar New Year and gain a better understanding of what the event is all about.

Here are some things you might not know about Lunar New Year.

Lunar New Year doesn’t have a set date. It’s not based on the Gregorian calendar - it’s based on the cycles of the moon’s phases which are known as the lunar calendar. Most of the time, the Lunar New Year falls between mid-January to mid-February, and you can predict it years in advance. This year, the start of the festival begins on January 25th. It ends 15 days later at the Lantern Festival.

A composite photo of different phases of the moon.
Lunar New Year causes the world’s most massive annual migration. Lunar New Year is about spending time with family, so people from all over the world head home to be with parents, siblings and grandparents. This mass migration is known as Chunyun, or the Spring Festival travel season. It is believed that over 2 billion people travel in the lead up to Lunar New Year each year.

Everything is decorated red for a reason. From lanterns to envelopes, red is the colour most commonly associated with the Lunar New Year. This is due to an ancient legend which tells the tale of Nian, a ferocious monster who hunted people and livestock during Spring Festival celebrations. The villagers in this tale eventually learned of the two things that Nian disliked – one of them was the colour red, which helped to keep him away. The other was loud noises, which is why it’s also common to set off firecrackers on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
 

A man sitting in a stall selling a huge number of red items.
A close up of firecrackers hanging on a stick.

 
There are 12 Chinese zodiacs (shengxiao), each represented by an animal. The zodiac changes each year, rotating through the 12 animals. These animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. 2020 is the Year of the Rat and next year will be the Year of the Ox. Depending on the year you were born, you’ll have an assigned Chinese zodiac which represents how you are perceived.

Use the below table to find out which Chinese Zodiac sign you are and which personality traits you’re said to have based on your birth year.
 
A table indicating the Chinese zodiac signs.
It is customary to clean your home from top to bottom before the New Year. Doing so will remove all bad luck accrued in the past year and make room for good luck. There are also traditions which do not allow you to sweep or throw anything out until the 5th day of the Spring Festival – this is so you do not accidentally throw or wash away the good luck.

The food you eat throughout the festival matters. There are a handful of meals that have a special meaning when eaten during the Spring Festival. These can be different based on which region you are in. For example, when you make traditional “longevity noodles” (cháng shòu miàn), certain toppings can symbolise different things. Adding eggs symbolises a big and healthy family, whereas adding roasted pig is said to bring you peace. Even the length of the noodles is something you need to consider – as the longer the noodle, the longer your life will be. Be careful not to cut your noodles, and some regions believe that you should try not to chew them. Metricon does not endorse this practice!

A big bowl of noodles with eggs, greens and meat.
Some people in China count their age based on how many Lunar New Years they’ve passed. That doesn’t mean they don’t celebrate their birthday, but they don’t turn a year older until the Lunar New Year. Chinese people are considered “one” when they are born, so you can be “two” by February if you’re born in December. It’s becoming more and more common for young people to count their birthday the same way as Western countries do, but some people still stick to traditions.

Lunar New Year is a time to pray. The festival was originally a day of ceremony and praying to gods for a good season of farming. Like many different cultures, including Western cultures, ensuring a plentiful harvest was paramount to their survival, so praying to gods and ancestors, as well as doing as much to promote good luck was essential.

Look out for an upcoming Lunar New Year wrap up to see how we celebrated at Metricon.

Xin nian kuai le!
(Happy new year!)