Happy New Year! Xin Nian Kuai Le! Or even ‘新年快乐’!

Chinese New Year is upon us, and it’s Year of the Dragon. With celebrations taking place all over the world, here’s a bit of background information on one of the most widely-celebrated cultural events on the planet.

Chinese New Year - Year of the Dragon

When is Chinese New Year?

Instead of a Gregorian calendar like the one the West uses, the traditional Chinese calendar is lunisolar, meaning that it runs according to the moon phase and the time of the solar year. Chinese New Year starts on the first day of the first month of the new year, and ends with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day. So although this year it started on the 23rd of January, new year in 2013 only starts February 10th.

OK – does this mean presents?

Customs and traditions surrounding the new year are varied according to regions, but people do buy presents, decorations, food and clothing to celebrate. After all, what’s a party without food and decorations at the very least? As it’s also known as the Spring Festival, people do a spot of spring cleaning too, with most families cleaning house, specifically to make way for good incoming luck. Expect parades too – especially in cities with large Chinese populations. Spectacular parades take place across the world, but the best place to see it is predictably in Beijing, China.

What’s with the dragon?

As you probably know, each animal in the Chinese zodiac calendar represents one year in the rotating 12-year cycle. This year is the year of the dragon, the 5th position in the Chinese zodiac and the strongest of all twelve signs. There are all sorts of personality traits supposedly attributed to people born in the dragon year, most of them going on about how dominant their personalities are, how they like to ‘live by their own rules’, take risks and are all passionate and enthusiastic about everything. They sound like a pain in the butt to me! (Just kidding – happy new year to all the dragons out there.) Famous people born in the year of the dragon include Joan of Arc, Sigmund Freud, Mae West, John Lennon, Bruce Lee, Keanu Reeves, Colin Farrell, Al Pacino, Liam Neeson, Nicholas Cage, Russell Crowe, Mary Louise Parker, Sandra Bullock and even Salvador Dali.

Wherever you are, whichever animal has been randomly thrust upon you and whichever calendar you prefer, have a happy new year!

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