Chinese New Year - How Will You Celebrate?


Jan 07, 2015 by James Rowland

On Thursday 19th February 2015, Chinese people and those of Chinese descent throughout the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year. The UK's ethnic Chinese population is thought to be the oldest in Western Europe, and is now the third largest in Europe, so there will be plenty of celebrations here.



Running from the last day of the 'old' Chinese year to the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day of the first month of the new year, this is one of the longest-lasting and most important festivals in the Chinese calendar. It has links with various deities and the honouring of ancestors, although traditions vary by geographical regions (China being a very big country!)

Probably the most important event of the festival is the reunion dinner, which can be compared to the western Christmas dinner. Families gather on the night before the new year starts, to eat together. It is also common, particularly in recent years, for families to hold parties to celebrate and to count down to the dawn of the new year. Celebrations are televised in several regions.



In fact, so important are the celebrations to Chinese people that the return of migrant workers to their families for the reunion meal has been described as the world's largest annual migration. It even has its own name, chunyun. In China, the transport infrastructure increases capacity two weeks before the celebrations begin and throughout the chunyun period, which lasts for 40 days.



Although regional traditions vary, some practices are very widespread. These include cleaning the house in the days leading up to the celebration. This was originally done to rid the home of evil spirits and welcome in good fortune, so the cleaning materials have to be put away by the time the new year starts, to avoiding clearing out the new, good fortune along with the old.

Windows and doors are frequently decorated with red paper ornaments, often in traditional Chinese forms, fireworks are lit and gifts (often of money in red paper envelopes) are exchanged. The first Chinese New Year fireworks were made from bamboo stems filled with gunpowder, which were lit to drive away evil spirits. In many places, troupes perform lion dances, a traditional Chinese dance using lion costumes, as part of the celebrations.


UK Celebrations

There has been steady immigration to the UK from China, or by members of overseas Chinese populations, since at least the nineteenth century, so many UK cities now have a sizeable Chinese population. In particular, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Newcastle, Belfast and Aberdeen have traditions of marking the Chinese New Year. In London, where celebrations centre on Chinatown and Leicester Square, hundreds of thousands of people get involved, making it one of the highlights of the capital's calendar.

Wherever you are in the UK, you are likely to be within easy reach of some celebrations this Chinese New Year. Why not join in?