It’s the Chinese New Year and it celebrates one of the most ancient calendars still in existence today. The calendar also marks a new zodiac year, ending the “2015 year” of the sheep, ram, or goat and bringing on the year of the monkey.
Read on for 5 fast facts about this worldwide celebration:
1. The Date Changes Every Year
In 2015 the Chinese New Year occurred on February 19.
The Chinese New Year date is different every year because the Chinese follow a different calendar style than western countries. The Chinese calendar is based on lunar cycles that begin each month on the darkest day. Because of this, the Chinese calendar has a variable number of months every year.
Other lunar calendars similar to this style are the Hindu and ancient Hebrew calendars.
Internationally a majority of countries use a solar calendar, called the Gregorian calendar. It’s also known as the Western calendar or the Christian calendar. It gets its namesake from Pope Gregory XIII who introduced it in 1582 as a refinement of the Julian calendar.
In some versions of the Chinese calendar, it is over double the Gregorian calendar in years. Some Chinese will be celebrating year 4714 while others 2130. Read on to find out why.
2. It Is Two Different New Years
February 8, 2016 is Chinese New Year, but there is some confusion as to whether it is year 4714 or 2130 in the Chinese calendar.
That’s because in some versions of the modern Chinese calendar it is continuous, but it is traditionally cyclical, meaning it starts back over at one.
Depending on where you live in China and what the local culture is will be the year you believe it to be.
But for 2016 the two choices are 4714 or 2130.
3. It’s the Year of the Fire Monkey
2014 was the year of the horse, 2015 was the year of the goat, sheep, or ram, and 2016 is the year of not only the monkey but the fire monkey.
In Chinese astrology, each year is associated with a Chinese zodiac animal sign and one the Five Elements: Gold (Metal), Water, Wood, Fire, or Earth. Both the sign and element of your birth year are said to affect your personality and destiny.
Characteristics of those born in the year of the “fire monkey” include being “ambitious and adventurous, but irritable.”
4. It’s a Celebration of Dragons
Westerners identify the Chinese dragon with Chinese New Year, especially in parades. But the Chinese dragon is actually a part of the folklore assigned to the beginning of the New Year.
The Chinese dragon is named “Nian” and in a Santa Claus-like custom it would visit every New Year. Villagers would put food out in front of their doors to feed the dragon and appease it so it wouldn’t attack them. Later on, a clever villager realized Nian was afraid of red and start to put red up every New Year. Red firecrackers soon followed to scare him even more away.
It’s why Chinese New Year is celebrated with red lanterns.
5. It’s a Public Holiday in Many Countries
Countries or areas that recognize Chinese New Year as a public holiday include: the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Laos, Canada, the United States, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
While the holiday is traditionally 15-days long, each country recognizes the entire holiday or certain portions of it.