Xīnnián hǎo! Happy Lunar New Year!

Today marks the Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival as it’s also known. The New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world’s population. It’s the most important holiday in China and to Chinese people around the globe. There’s no set date for Chinese New Year. It’s based on the Lunar calendar, not the Gregorian calendar that the western world uses, which is based the solar cycle. Accordingly, the Spring Festival is on January 1st of the Lunar calendar and lasts until the 15th (the full moon). The Chinese New Year an occur anytime between January 21 to February 20, according to the calendar we are more familiar with. In 2019, it occurs on February 5th.

The most important part of Chinese New Year is the family reunion. Everyone should come back home for the New Year’s Eve dinner. But since in modern China, most elderly parents live in rural villages while their children work in the cities. The migration back home and to go on vacation is called chunyun (春运), or Spring Migration. And since having children and passing down the family name is one of the most important aspects of Chinese culture. Some desperate singles resort to hiring a fake boyfriend or girlfriend to take home to meet the parents. Those who can’t (or don’t want to) go home can rent themselves out.

In other cultures, children receive gifts for holidays. Gifts are also exchanged during the Spring Festival. But Chinese children receive something else too – red envelopes. Also called red packets or pockets, they include money. This money is supposed to help transfer fortune from the elders to the kids. They can also be given between bosses and employees, co-workers, and friends. Accordingly, the Chinese decorate everything red for Chinese New Year, in the form of red lanterns and strings of (real or fake) chili peppers, paste red paper onto doors and windows, and more! Chinese New Year ends with the Lantern Festival on the first full moon of the (lunar) year. Though family is still important, it’s still a night of partying and freedom. It’s also known as Valentine’s Day in China.

2019 is the Year of the Pig. In Chinese cultures, pigs are considered disciplined, hard-working, social and friendly. People born in the years 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007 and 2019 are considered to fall under the Year of the Pig. As the 12th zodiac animal, followers believe the pig represents a symbol of wealth — their big ears and chubby faces are also considered to be signs of good fortune.


Ottawa’s Chinatown is a great place to celebrate The Lunar New Year as the city is home to a Chinese community consisting of about 30,000 people. Every year, up to a thousand people attend the Lunar New Year celebration which includes the parade and the Kings of Good Fortune procession accompanied by drummers. This year, the Chinatown 2019 Lunar New Year parade will take place on February 16 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Kings of Good Fortune will go through streets, restaurants, and stores of Chinatown to give away lucky red envelopes with best wishes for the New Year. There are about 2000 envelopes with lucky red money, and about 150 have a special surprise gift. People who are giving away envelopes are all dressed up as the zodiac animals from Chinese Zodiac Calendar or wear traditional Chinese costumes.

If you’re looking to celebrate Chinese New Year in Ottawa, the Riverside South Chinese New Year party takes place on February 9 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., at the Riverview Community Centre.

Image source: http://ottawachinatown.ca/

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