The Chinese New Year is the most important and longest Chinese celebrated festival in the calendar and London does not disappoint in putting on a show. The London Guide to Chinese New Year.
鼠年拼写 – The year of the Rat 2020
Chinese new year calendar for the Next Ten Years
|YEAR||DATE||Year of the|
Where to Celebrates Chinese New Year in London
China Town and Trafalgar Square are the place to go in London. Everything turns Red, the city authorities put a large stage up in Trafalgar Square, let the party begin.
Where is Londons China Town
We look at the most significant event in the Chinese Calendar, discovering the rituals and the cultural significance behind this celebrated day.
Why Does the Chinese Zodiac run for 12 years? Shēngxiào (Mandarin)
What are the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, Shēngxiào (Mandarin)
The Chinese New year follows the 12 cycles of the Chinese Zodiac, starting with the Rat and ends 12 years later with the year of the pig. The whole cycle repeats itself for the next 12-year zodiac cycle. They associate each animal against one of 5 earth natural elements; Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water.
According to Chinese astrology, the animal of the year you are born in describes you as a person and also describes how others perceive you as a person. To make things more interesting though, there are also a different set of animals assigned for each month of the year, known as inner animals. There is a saying, Kaisui or Tai Sui where a conflict exists between your Zodiac year animal and your inner month animal.
Chinese New Year Red Banner
Rat 鼠 (子) Water
Ox 牛 (丑) Earth
Tiger 虎 (寅) Wood
Rabbit 兔 (卯) Wood
Dragon 龍 (辰) Earth
Snake 蛇 (巳) Fire
Horse 馬 (午) Fire
Goat 羊 (未) Earth
Monkey 猴 (申) Metal
Rooster 雞 (酉) Metal
Dog 狗 (戌) Earth
Pig 豬 (亥) Water
Importance of Colour in Chinese Culture
Colour is linked to the 5 elements
- Red is Fire
- Yellow is Earth
- White is Metal
- Black is water
- Green/Blue is Wood
The Red Chinese Symbol Explained
You will find red everywhere during the Chinese New Year, and there is a superb reason that is the case. It is the symbolic colour of happiness, so much so they forbid it to be on display during funerals.
Red Chinese Symbol good luck, happiness, Salutations “Safe Journey in the new year, prosperous new year, abundance in the new year, may your wishes come true in the new year. Red is Fire, the earth element of good luck, not only at New Year but other significant events of national celebration.
Happiness and prosperity, may your work go. Many paper cutouts, symbolic posters that contain symmetry symbols, words and rules for their placement. Left resembling health contentment family, Right representing good luck.
Peony flowers honour and wealth, kumquat tree, a pine tree eternal youth, magpies on plum trees forewarn of a lucky event that will soon happen.
Red Chinese Designer couture Shoes
Chinese Fire Crackers
Chinese celebrations would not seem complete without a fair share of Firecrackers being let of. The purpose? to ward off evil negative forces.
A folklore legend has it, that a monster called Nián was driven away from attacking people by the sound of Firecrackers, and also the emblazoned colour red (of fire) the Chinese Symbol.
The name Firecracker in Chinese translates to “Exploding bamboo”, as early as 200bc a method of heating bamboo was devised that resulted in a crackled explosion. The process in later years was speeded up by the use of Gunpowder!
Whilst other cultures are celebrating Christmas; Chinese traditions remember the Jade Emperor of Heaven on the 23rd of December. The Kitchen God reports to this Jade Emperor on this day to review the negative and positive actions of the people.
As an offering people set off firecrackers, with little bowls of offerings. We can see something similar in other traditions and cultures like Santa Claus or St Nicholas.
The offerings can vary from dry fruit nuts to burning incense. This will bless the family for a wealthy year. A paper effigy of the god is often burnt outside by the head male of the household. These fires can be fuelled by alcohol, which presents a striking appearance, if not perhaps an unsafe one to emulate.
Chinese Time to Pray and Reflection
Chinese People go temples like many other cultures for pray and reflection, The Chinese at this time of year Pray for the year ahead and hope the Chinese New Year brings good fortune and luck. The tradition of bringing offerings to honour dead family members is also a present reminder of the past.
ENTER THE DRAGON
Although this title was the name of the Last Bruce Lee Film in 1973 before his death in the same year. Dragons entering your front door for the new year is part of the traditions and theatrics on display during the London new year celebrations in Chinatown and all over the world.
The Dragon itself is a symbolic symbol of China that goes back centuries. The Hang dynasty 206 BC -220AD were using Dragons, in dance ceremonies that prayed for rain. Decorations don‘t stop at dancing dragons, they will decorate crockery and temples with dragon images. The Dragon stands for Wisdom, Wealth and power. The Tang dynasty starting 618 and the Song Dynasty 960 were using dragon dance during New Year celebrations. It’s thought to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.
You will hear the beating sound of drums, the clashing of cymbals accompanying any pageant, and not forgetting the leading dragon, call at property doors, snaking through the streets of China Town.
They usually make the dragons out of vivid Cloth, bamboo, and other eye-catching craft materials. The joints are always in odd numbers and they raise the dragon body on stick poles high above. It will mysteriously bob and weave duck and dive as it tries to chase the leader in front carrying a ball on a raised stick.
To glimpse the dancing dragons in a busy street can be a tricky affair, sometimes even ending up into a chase. This can sometimes be termed the day of the dragon dance. At the end of the dance, the tail and the head may be ceremonially burnt and the body, well that will be packed away for another year.
The Chinese New year main evening meal is a very important time as the family gets together over traditional symbolic dishes.
Why not Let the Chinese New Year begin with Lettuce!
Another thing you will see in London’s China Town and in China is the hanging lettuce suspended by a string in doorways. But why? At first, you wonder if it’s a peace or meal-offering for the dragon visiting. However, the first meal of the New year is a vegetarian with lettuce as a side dish. Then the word for lettuce sounds the same as the word for making money, another tie in with the good fortune motto.
Eating a dumpling on the last lunar day of the year is for good luck, fortune and happiness. Emulating the shape of gold or silver ingots, which is the early form of currency in old China. There are many hidden meanings with dumplings, eat one at midnight and it may contain a hidden coin. Dumplings laid out in a row, signals particular attention to detail. Placing Dumplings in a ring will make your year ahead go round in circles, or so they say
Chinese Spring Rolls
Chinese spring rolls are also symbolic of the shape of gold bars.
Other Chinese Foods
Fish appears regularly for New year. The word sounds similar to abundance prosperity.
Peach longevity, fertility by the pomegranate, Orange cooked with Duck Love.
Tangerines & Oranges are a sign of luck, prosperity plenty profit. Given as gifts or used as decorations
Sticky Rice, Chicken family unity, cabbage prosperity, Noodle symbolising longevity, Duck happiness,
Cake offering to the Kitchen God!
Called Nian Gao , niangao, nin gou
Offering cake to the Kitchen God is thought to bring more success, perform better at work or school. Chinese bakeries and shops have some interesting displays of New year cakes on show.
They make it with sweet rice flour also known as glutinous rice flour. It is gluten-free. Rice flour is not the same thing. They prepare a careful batter by sugar water and the flour which is steamed, so it sets like a cake usually in the shape of a loaf cake rectangle. Like a gold bar!
Sweet Rice balls symbolise family and unity and often eaten during the lantern lighting part of New Year celebrations. They can contain a hidden centre of sesame or red bean paste. It often calls them Glutinous rice balls however this just describes the sticky texture of the rice most would not be containing gluten as they are rice-based products. Always check labels but it is one food that many people with special diet considerations may sample. A clear soup may be on offer in the cold outdoor chill.
Cleaning and purity ritual
From around the last week of January till the start of a New year in February the rituals of doing a spring clean of the home to get rid of negative vibes from the last year and so making a clean slate to let the new year and its new luck and fortune. In Cantonese “Wash away the dirt”. They think the cleaning ritual to symbolise clearing away all the bad luck of the last year, to make way for the new luck to come with the start of the fresh year.
After the family meal the young children, elderly and young adults will receive a red envelope containing money for good fortune. In China town, in the past, a bank manager dressed traditional emperor costume will hand out such envelopes with a small coin.
The end of the new year’s celebrations where the moon is full around the 15th day of the lunar month marks the end of the Chinese New year and the start of the lantern festival often the fireworks can be hosted around this time too even dragons that have been lit up from inside. This is all to honour family reunion, who gather to watch the full moon in illumination. Again this symbolises vitality.
Gerrard Place China Town
One enjoyable thing for children is the animal mascot is usually on stalls all around China town, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square. Each year the format changes. From an inflatable boat one year to a satin ox, to a beaded rat and a foam dog. Many charts are online to enable people to look up their Chinese animal birth sign. Just look up the year. Interestingly, you can read up on the traits and characteristics and laugh at how often much of what is described fits characteristics of yourself or other people you know!