Chinese New Year 2018: When is it and which zodiac animal is being celebrated this year?

From special foods to 'sweeping the dust', here's how the world's most populous country does it

Daniel Khalili-Tari
Monday 12 February 2018 17:43
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London Chinatown celebrates Chinese New Year 2018

Chinese communities around the world are preparing to launch their new year celebrations, the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar.

Starting from 16 February, the colourful celebrations to welcome in the new year continue for around two weeks.

Here's everything you need to know about the global celebrations:

When is the Chinese New Year?

On Friday 16 February, China will celebrate the beginning of its New Year. The date changes annually, as it is set by the Chinese lunisolar calendar.

Each Chinese year is given its name from the Chinese zodiac. Just like the western zodiac, it is divided into 12 sections. However, each section is characterised by an animal.

Last year was the year of the rooster. More than one billion people are expected to mark this year’s celebrations.

This year's turnout is expected to reach one billion AFP/Getty

Which zodiac animal is celebrated in 2018?

This year’s zodiac animal is a dog.

Unlike most of the world, the Chinese zodiac is not based on the stars. Instead, the ancient Chinese religion known as Taoism has influenced the choice of animals, which are said to have arisen as a result of a Chinese fairy tale, linked to the religion.

The 12 zodiac animals are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

What do Chinese people do to celebrate the New Year?

People begin preparing for the main celebrations days before the start date. However, official celebrations start on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, which for the UK would be 8 February this time around.

Most begin by thoroughly cleaning their house. The process is known as “sweeping the dust” and is symbolic as it represents putting away old things and leaving the past behind.

Once all the cleaning has been finished, people put up red posters with poetic verses on their doors, Chinese New Year pictures on their walls and decorate their homes with red lanterns.

Family events are common. During the evening, many set off fireworks and firecrackers, while hoping to rid themselves of bad luck and to encourage good fortune.

Children commonly receive "luck money", while many put on new clothes and as is the case in most countries, people send Chinese New Year greetings to each other.

Various activities such as beating drums and striking gongs are part of the festive celebrations. Lion and dragon dances are common too.

Are there any special dishes?

Certain foods are eaten during the special period for their symbolic meaning. Lucky food is served during the festive season, which typically lasts for 15-days from 16 February.

The common foods include dumplings, spring rolls, fish and niangao, which is a glutinous rice cake.

Other popular foods include good fortune fruits, longevity noodles and tangyuan – a sweet rice ball.

So, where can you celebrate?

A variety of events will be taking place in London to celebrate the New Year.

The Museum of London Docklands is hosting a special family day, while restaurants and bars in Chinatown have arranged a variety of events.

A dragon parade will take place in Manchester's Albert Square while Glasgow will host a dragon and lion dance in the city's George Square.

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