What people have in mind when they hear about the Chinese New Year are probably dragon dances and fireworks. Those are very traditional elements of the festivities and when you travel to Beijing or another big city you should certainly see this part of the culture if you get the chance. If you book one of the China hotels in a good location you might even have a good view from the hotel room. But for safety reasons this practice has been banned in some major cities and also keep in mind that there is no general public celebration apart from the fireworks.

This holiday belongs to the family and combines in a way Christmas and the Western New Year’s Eve and is a holiday period that lasts 15 days. It’s the time of the year when families get together, exchange presents and enjoy meals together. One of the most important parts is the feast on the evening of the New Year. There are different kinds of traditional food, depending on the region. In the north for example jiao zi (Chinese dumplings which are shaped like a crescent moon) are very typical.

From New Year’s Day on every day has a certain meaning, a typical meal, activities that should be avoided or that are usually done. The eighth day is the end of the official holiday and people go back to work. The Chinese New Year festivities end with the Lantern Festival which is always on the day of the first full moon. On this day families get together and especially for kids it’s a very enjoyable night. They make paper lanterns to illuminate and march under the full moon.

The origin of this holiday goes back to the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). During this economically prosperous and politically stable time celebrations during New Year blossomed with the purpose of spending time with the family.

Every year in the Chinese calendar stands under the sign of one of the twelve zodiac signs, which are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. In China 2012 is the year of the dragon, which is the fifth sign or to be more precise the New Year of the Chinese calendar began on January 23, 2012 and will end on February 9, 2013. These dates change every year according to the Gregorian calendar and range between late January and mid February.

In China the dragon is the mightiest of all signs and a symbol of power and wealth, full of vitality and strength. For that reason many Chinese people see the dragon year as a good opportunity to get things started and succeed at something major. It is said that the Dragon year brings luck to those who dare to speak out, to take charge and even to take over.

If you want to plan your stay in China during that time of the year take into consideration that China flights might be slightly more expensive because so many people travel out of town to meet their families and apart from that most tourist attractions are closed on the day of the New Year.

Jack Li

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