Lunar New Year: Google Doodle celebrates Chinese Year of the Pig

Red lanterns, fireworks and 'good luck' money all part of two-week Spring Festival rituals

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 05 February 2019 08:00
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Lunar New Year: Google Doodle celebrates Chinese Year of the Pig

Chinese New Year takes place on Tuesday 5 February, its precise date varying annually in accordance with the country’s lunisolar calendar.

Celebrated not just in China but overseas in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines as well as in Chinese communities across the world, custom sees every year characterised by one of the 12 spirit animals of the Chinese zodiac.

As indicated by Google’s latest Doodle, 2019 is the Year of the Pig.

The associated festivities typically run for two weeks, from New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month.

To wish someone a happy new year in Mandarin, the phrase is “Xin Nian Kuai Le”. In Cantonese, it is “San Nin Faai Lok”.

How is the Chinese New Year celebrated?

The festivities begin with a thorough house cleaning, a symbolic ritual intended to sweep away the accumulated dust and detritus of the past year from the home. Doing so allows the occupant to begin the new calendar with a clean slate.

Red paper lanterns and banners bearing poetic inscriptions are hung as decorations, the colour believed to bring good luck and prosperity.

Children are likewise handed “luck money” in red envelopes during the season to encourage good fortune.

Special ceremonial foods eaten at the Nian Ye Fan family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve include poultry, pork and fish dishes, spring rolls, noodles and vegetable taro cakes. Precisely what is served varies from region to region: jiaozi dumplings are customary in the north and niangao, a glutinous rice cake, in the south.

Apples and mandarin oranges are offered as emblems of peace and wealth.

Prayers are said at temple and incense lit to remember lost ancestors, while many stay up late to watch China Central Television’s Spring Festival Gala, a four-hour spectacular broadcast since 1982 that routinely attracts 800m viewers. It is thought to be the world’s most-watched programme.

Fireworks are ignited on New Year’s Day to banish old ghosts and evil spirits from the hearth while lion and dragon dance troupes take part in town centre parades, accompanied by dancers bearing gongs and traditional drums.

Other dates honoured during the two-week Spring Festival include Horse’s Day, on which the Ghost of Poverty is driven out, and the Jade Emperor’s Birthday, on which prayers are offered to the first god in the Daoist pantheon.

What does the Year of the Pig signify?

The pig is the last of the zodiac animals, having overslept and arrived late to the great meeting to which all of the creatures were summoned by the Jade Empreror, according to folklore.

A traditional paper lantern hung for Chinese New Year

The beast is associated with wealth, emotion and intuition, its accompanying natural element being water.

People born in one of the Years of the Pig – most recently 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995 or 2007 – are said to be realistic and retiring in nature.

While frugal with money and motivated by aquisition, they enjoy life and are not afraid to treat themselves.

Men born in the Year of the Pig are focused but gentle, trusting but calm. Women are exciteable and sociable.

They are said to be most compatible with partners born in the years of the tiger, rabbit or goat and least with those from snake and monkey years.

The colours yellow, brown and grey and the numbers two, five and eight are considered lucky for pigs; blue, green, one, seven and nine are unlucky.

How will Chinese New Year be marked in the UK?

London’s Chinatown in the West End plays host to the largest Spring Festival celebrations outside of Asia, with this year’s 50-float parade taking place between Shaftebury Avenue and Trafalgar Square on 10 February.

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The area’s restaurants are typically packed as diners join in the carnival atmosphere, while fireworks, speeches and acrobatic displays will take place in front of the National Gallery and in Leicester Square.

Similar festivities will be held in other British cities with large Chinese communities, including Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

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