A few things you didn’t know about Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rat. Everything you need for a prosperous year ahead (and some fun facts about rats).
Happy New Year!
In Chinese “Happy New Year” is 新年快乐 or “xin nian kuai le”. In Hong Kong and Cantonese-speaking regions, it’s more common to say “gong hei fat choy” and in Mandarin Chinese it’s “gong xi fa cai”, which mean “congratulations on the fortune.”
When is Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year 2020 starts on Saturday 25 January. The first day of Chinese New Year varies and is determined by the lunar calendar. Chinese New Year starts when the new moon occurs between 21 January and 20 February.
The first day is only the start of the celebrations; the festivities last over two weeks, with the Lantern Festival (灯节—dēng jié) taking place on the first full moon of the lunar year and marking the end of the new year celebrations. In 2020, the Lantern Festival is on the 08 February 2020.
Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival and Lunar New Year.
How is Chinese New Year celebrated?
Chinese New Year is celebrated in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and by their communities all over the world. Chinese New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world.
Traditionally, festivities start with a full clean of the home before New Year’s Day, and decorations of paper lanterns and banners are hung up around the home. Cleaning then isn’t allowed until the fifth day of the new year, so the good luck the new year brings isn’t swept away.
Red is the main colour of the celebrations and considered to bring good fortune and protection. Children are given ‘luck money’ in red envelopes. Many people wear red clothing and the decorations are red.
A symbolic feast is eaten among family on New Year’s Eve and fireworks are set off at midnight to scare off monsters and bad luck. New Year’s Day features colourful celebrations, lavish parades and more fireworks.
Chinese New Year is also observed with prayers, to the gods for good planting and harvest season and to ancestors.
Celebrate Chinese New Year in London
The Chinese New Year celebrations in London are the largest outside of Asia and take place on Sunday 26 January.
There are free parades and performances in Chinatown, Trafalgar Square and the West End (a 5-minute tube ride or a 12-minute walk from IH London school). The colourful hand-crafted floats in the parade feature the largest amount of Chinese lion and dragon decorations in Europe. And of course the celebrations feature delicious traditional Chinese food.
The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich also has a special showcase to celebrate Chinese New Year, hosting both the Guizhou Song and Dance Ensemble and Step Out Arts.
Find out more about the 2020 Chinese New Year celebrations in London.
What is the Year of the Rat?
The 2020 Chinese New Year will begin the Year of the Rat.
The years on the Chinese calendar are in 12-year cycles, so the next Year of the Rat will occur in 12 years’ time. The rat is the first of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac.
The legend goes that the Jade Emperor organised a race for a group of animals on his birthday and the results determined the order of the Chinese Zodiac. The rat was on the Ox’s back and jumped off just before the finish line in order to win first place. The animals of the Chinese Zodiac are: Rat, Ox, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Tiger, Rabbit, Sheep, Rooster, Monkey, Dog and Pig.
The rat symbolises wealth and the beginning of a new day. The rat is associated with spirit, wit, alertness, delicacy, flexibility and vitality. Rats are also a symbol of fertility.
People born in the Year of the Rat are thought to possess characteristics which are associated with rats: creativity, intelligence, honesty, ambition and generosity.
Find out your Chinese Zodiac animal (and your best Chinese Zodiac love match!)
Five fun facts about rats!
- Rats have excellent memories. Once they learn a route, they won’t forget.
- Rats take care of injured and sick rats in their group.
- Rats make happy laughter sounds when they play.
- Rats are extremely clean animals, spending several hours every day grooming themselves and their group members.
- A rat can go longer than a camel without having a drink of water.
Five fun facts about IH London
- We are the first UK language school to offset carbon emissions for all flights to our summer young learner courses.
- We are the no. 1 Language school in Central London, judged by the latest British Council inspections and reported in the EL Gazette.
- Our latest EAQUALS inspection showed high quality standards in ALL areas, with the majority exceeding the high quality standards demonstrating what EAQUALS calls “consistent excellence”.
- More than 80% of our teachers are also teacher trainers. Our teaching experts speak at the world-famous teaching event IATEFL.
- Our founder, John Haycraft, pioneered the first teacher training qualification, now known as the CELTA and run by the University of Cambridge.