Chinese New Year will soon be upon us – and with it comes a host of superstitions that will apparently dictate how the next 12 months will play out for each of us.
Washing clothes, using scissors and sweeping floors are some of the easier omens to sidestep. However, parents might find it difficult to dodge crying children and – on the more extreme end of the scale – women might find it difficult to avoid leaving the house all day.
According to Chinese superstition, doing any of these on Feb 1 – the day Chinese New Year falls in 2022 – will lead to bad luck for the entire coming year. But it isn’t all doom and gloom as 2022 is the Year of the Tiger, an animal that symbolises strength and being brave.
Here is everything you need to know about the annual celebration, as well as recipes to cook for a delicious family feast.
When is Chinese New Year 2022?
The Chinese year will start on Feb 1 2022 and end on January 31 2023, when the Year of the Water Rabbit begins.
The new year, also known in China as the Spring Festival, is marked by the lunisolar Chinese calendar; this means the date changes from year to year.
The festivities usually start the day before the new year and continue until the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the new year.
The Chinese zodiac is divided into 12 blocks (or houses) just like its western counterpart, but with the major difference that each house has a time-length of one year instead of one month.
Each Chinese New Year is characterised by one of 12 animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac – last year was the Year of the Ox.
Year of the Tiger
People born in the Year of the Tiger are characterised as being brave, competitive and confident. But, on the other hand, they can sometimes be unpredictable, irritable, and overindulgent.
Lucky numbers for people born in the Year of the Tiger are one, three and four, and their lucky colours are blue, grey and orange. Their lucky flowers are cinerarias and anthuriums.
Which Chinese zodiac sign are you?
Your sign is derived from the year you were born in the Chinese lunar calendar.
Which animal are you?
- Rat: 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972
- Ox: 2021, 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973
- Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
- Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
- Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
- Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
- Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
- Sheep: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
- Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
- Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
- Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
- Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971
The years above are a rough guide; bear in mind that if you were born in January or February it may be slightly different as the new year moves between January 21 and February 20.
The years allocated to each animal are in a very specific order. According to an ancient Chinese folk story, the Jade Emperor had called 13 animals to a meeting and announced that the years on the calendar would be named according to the order they arrived in. This led to ‘The Great Race’.
The rat travelled on the back of the ox, leaping from its back to nab first place. The pig stopped for a snack and a nap and arrived last; a cat was also in the race but drowned during the competition, leading to there being only 12 animals in the zodiac.
According to Chinese astrology, the year of your birth sign is believed to be one of the most unlucky years of your life. It is thought that people in their zodiac year offend Tai Sui, the God of Age, and incur his curse.
What does your Chinese zodiac sign mean?
In Chinese astrology, the 12 animal zodiac signs each have unique characteristics.
- Rat: Intelligence, adaptability, quick-wit, charm, artistry, gregariousness.
- Ox: Loyalty, reliability, thoroughness, strength, reasonability, steadiness, determination.
- Tiger: Enthusiasm, courage, ambition, leadership, confidence, charisma.
- Rabbit: Trustworthiness, empathy, modesty, diplomacy, sincerity, sociability.
- Dragon: Luckiness, flexibility, eccentricity, imagination, artistry, spirituality, charisma.
- Snake: Philosophical, organised, intelligent, intuitive, elegant, attentive, decisive.
- Horse: Adaptable, loyal, courageous, ambitious, intelligent, adventurous, strong.
- Sheep: Tasteful, crafty, warm, elegant, charming, intuitive, sensitive, calm.
- Monkey: Quick-witted, charming, lucky, adaptable, bright, versatile, lively, smart.
- Rooster: Honest, energetic, intelligent, flamboyant, flexible, diverse, confident.
- Dog: Loyal, sociable, courageous, diligent, steady, lively, adaptable, smart.
- Pig: Honorable, philanthropic, determined, optimistic, sincere, sociable.
Popular Chinese New Year Greetings
If you want to get into the swing of the festivities but don’t have the foggiest how to decipher Mandarin characters, here is our handy guide to the most essential phrases.
1. 新年快乐 / 新年快樂 (xīn nián kuài lè) “Happy New Year!”
In Mandarin: /sshin-nyen kweye-luh/
In Cantonese: /san nin fai lok/
2. 新年好 / 新年好 (Xīn nián hǎo) “New Year goodness!”
In Mandarin: /sshin-nyen haoww/
In Cantonese: /sen-nin haow/
3. 恭喜发财 / 恭喜發財 (Gōngxǐ fācái) “Happiness and prosperity!”
In Mandarin: /gong-sshee faa-tseye/
In Cantonese: Kunghei fatchoy /gong-hey faa-chwhy/
4. 步步高升 / 步步高陞 (Bùbù gāoshēng) “A steady rise to high places!” / “on the up and up”
In Mandarin: /boo-boo gaoww-shnng /
In Cantonese: /boh-boh goh-sshin /
Chinese New Year traditions
In preparation for the new year, the Chinese will clean their homes and put up red decorations and lanterns.
The celebrations will then officially kick off with a New Year’s Eve family dinner, with fish and dumplings being served to encourage prosperity.
Shou Sui, which translates as “after the New Year’s Eve dinner”, follows the traditional feast, where families stay awake throughout the night and gather for fireworks at midnight to banish evil.
Adults typically give children red packets containing money at Chinese New Year, to help them avoid the evil and wish them good health.
Chinese New Year’s Day taboos
There are many superstitions surrounding Chinese New Year. These are to be avoided on the first day of the festival:
- Medicine: Taking medicine on the first day of the lunar year means one will get ill for a whole year.
- Porridge: It is considered that only poor people have porridge for breakfast – and people don’t want to start the year “poor”.
- Laundry: People do not wash clothes on the first and second day because these two days are celebrated as the birthday of Shuishen (水神, the Water God).
- Washing hair: Hair must not be washed on the first day of the lunar year. In the Chinese language, hair (发) has the same pronunciation and character as ‘fa’ in facai (发财), which means ‘to become wealthy’. Therefore, it is seen as not a good thing to “wash one’s fortune away” at the beginning of the New Year.
- Sharp objects: The use of knives and scissors is to be avoided as any accident is thought to lead to inauspicious things and the depletion of wealth.
- Going out: A woman may not leave her house otherwise she will be plagued with bad luck for the entire coming year. A married daughter is not allowed to visit the house of her parents as this is believed to bring bad luck to the parents, causing economic hardship for the family.
- The broom: If you sweep on this day then your wealth will be swept away too.
- Crying children: The cry of a child is believed to bring bad luck to the family so parents do their best to keep children as happy as possible.
- Theft: Having your pocket picked is believed to portend your entire wealth in the coming year being stolen.
- Debt: Money should not be lent on New Year’s Day and all debts have to be paid by New Year’s Eve. If someone owes you money, do not go to their home to demand it. Anyone who does so will be unlucky all year.
- An empty rice jar: A depleted receptacle may cause grave anxiety as the cessation of cooking during the New Year period is considered to be an ill omen.
- Damaged clothes: Wearing threadbare garments can cause more bad luck for the year.
- Killing things: Blood is considered an ill omen, which will cause misfortunes such as a knife wound or a bloody disaster.
- Monochrome fashion: White or black clothes are barred as these two colours are traditionally associated with mourning.
- Giving of certain gifts: Clocks, scissors, and pears all have a bad meaning in Chinese culture.
How Chinese New Year is celebrated in the UK
Each year, the biggest celebrations outside Asia traditionally takes place in London, with thousands of people marking Chinese New Year across the capital.
Colourful floats usually pass through the streets of the West End and Chinatown along with dragon and lion dances, as part of the vibrant Chinese New Year parade.
In the past, London residents and tourists have been able to enjoy family-friendly entertainment in Leicester Square, cultural activities and traditional cuisine in Chinatown and live performances in Trafalgar Square.
This year, celebrations may be more muted this year in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In Manchester this year, although it will not be hosting a Dragon Parade, the city centre will be home to a giant tiger art installation, stunning red lanterns, pop-up food stalls and live performers.
Chinese New Year recipes
Essential spices and sauces to upgrade your Chinese cooking
From which vinegar to use to the ideal noodles and fried parcel wrappers, Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan discuss the best ingredients, spices and sauces to help create the most authentic tastes and textures.
Fuchsia Dunlop’s Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles
This Shanghainese dish is made with thick, bouncy noodles like fresh Japanese udon, which are given a dark caramel tint by soy sauce and freshened up with barely cooked greens.
A quick, authentic Shanghai stir-fry, by Fuchsia Dunlop
Cool steamed aubergine with a garlic dressing
Steaming brings out a gentle, unfamiliar side to a vegetable that is more commonly fried, baked or grilled, and, simple as they are, the seasonings taste sublime.
Sticky Chinese pork ribs
Rib-sticking delight: the honey gives these ribs a perfect sticky texture.
Chinese pork ribs, by Stevie Parle Credit: Andrew Crowley
Chicken fried rice
Ken Hom reveals his trick for quick, easy and tasty fried rice, inspired by the delicious version he ate at a food stall in China.
This guide has been updated with the latest information for Chinese New Year 2022.