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CNY 2018: 11 facts about Chinese New Year

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1. It is also known as Spring Festival

Did you know that the Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival? According to the lunar calendar, this day marks the beginning of spring. Back in the day, the Chinese would look forward to begin this season as it marked the end of the coldest part of winter - giving them a reason to rejoice and celebrate!

2. Each Chinese New Year has a representative zodiac animal

Many might not know that there is a legend that involves the 12 animal signs. As the tale goes, there was a day where the 12 animals argued as to who was to head the yearly cycle and as a result, a contest was held: whoever was the first to cross the river would be the first, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their finish. While all animals jumped into the river and started to race, the rat jumped on the back of the ox instead and jumped off just when the ox was about to climb ashore. The rat won and that is why the rat is the first in the animal cycle, the ox second and so on.

3. The origin of Lunar New Year and the legend of Nian

Legend has it that thousands of years ago, there was a monster called Nian and every first day of the year, the beast would awaken and terrorize the people in a village causing the villagers to live in fear. They started using loud noises, red colours and bright lights to scare the monster away as the beast hated these things.  As a result the Nian never returned to the village again. Therefore, the people of China continue this tradition of making loud noises and decorating their homes in red during the New Year - a tradition which has spread to other parts of the world as well and stayed till this very day.

4. 1 out of 6 people on the planet celebrates Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is not only celebrated in China, but is also observed in many places around the world, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and other Asian countries as well. Over time, the festive celebrations have expanded and spread to the Western side of the world - New York, London, Sydney, Vancouver (to name a few), making Chinese New Year one of the world's most celebrated festivals!

5. The ang pow tradition

The ang pow practice dates back to the Qin Dynasty where the elderly would thread coins with a red string to gift the younger generation as ya sui qian, meaning "money to ward off evil spirits." This was believed to protect the recipient from sickness and death. The ya sui qian was later on replaced by red envelopes when printing presses became more common.

6. The date for Chinese New Year changes every year

The date for Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar, which is based on the time the moon takes to go around the Earth, 29.5 days. And in order to “catch up” with the solar calendar, the Chinese add an extra month once every few years (the same as how an extra day is added on a leap year), which explains why the new year falls on a different date every year according to the Western calendar.

7. No one used to know what year it was

According to legend, the lunar-solar Chinese calendar is dated back to 2637 B.C. when it was invented by Emperor Huangdi during his ruling. Prior to that, the Chinese never took the initiative with numbering sequentially. In fact, till today, there is no one universally accepted starting point. But it has generally been agreed that Year 1 corresponds to the supposed first year of Huangdi's rule in 2698 B.C. which makes this upcoming year to be 4711.

8. The World’s Largest Exodus

The Chinese New Year period is also known to be the season of the largest human migration in the world. The annual epic travel rush happens during this time of the year where no matter where they are, people try their best to return home for a family reunion.

9. Bai Nian

Bai nian is a major activity during Chinese New Year. It means to go around visiting friends and relatives and bringing along some gifts for them. In the Chinese community, it is especially important for the younger generation to have "bai nian" to their elders as a sign of respect.

10. Receiving the God of Wealth in 2018

Many Chinese families worship the God of Wealth, or Cai Shen. Each CNY they set up altars and practice rituals to welcome or receive Cai Shen at auspicious hours.

11. Li Chun

The beginning of spring is known to the Chinese as Li Chun. It marks the first out of the 24 terms in the Chinese solar calendar and falls between the 3rd or 4th of February every year, when the sun is at the celestial longitude of 315°. Something unique is known to happen every year on this day - it is said that it's much easier to balance an egg on its end. One explanation for this strange phenomenon is that the sun is crossing the equator, making night and day equal on all parts of the earth.

Traditionally, Li Chun is an important day to the ancient Chinese farmers. They would often celebrate the beginning of Li Chun with ceremonies and worship for a prosperous harvest year. This practice is carried on till today with the belief that if you deposit money (since harvest is a symbol of prosperity) on this day, it will bring you a good start and welcome luck for the upcoming year.