Do you know why the dates of the Chinese New Year - also known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year, seem to vary every year? This is because it is the New Year that based on the lunisolar calendar, a calendar that based on both the Moon phase and the time of the solar year.


The Spring Festival is the most important traditional festival in China. Some countries in Asia such as Vietnam, Korea and Singapore also celebrate the Spring Festival.


There is a zodiac animal representing each year in Chinese culture and 2021 is the year of the Ox. There is a myth about why the Ox is the second of all zodiac animals: In ancient times, the Jade Emperor wanted to select 12 animals to be his palace guards. The Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived at his party. The Ox was a strong hardworking animal and was about to be the first to arrive, but the smart Rat secretly hid on the Ox back. Just as they arrived, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox. Thus, the Ox became the second zodiac animal. 


There are other myths associated with the Spring Festival too. Another well-known myth is about the origin of the Spring festival. In ancient China, there was a monster called Nián (年). Nián lived at the bottom of the sea and came up every New Year's Eve to feast on animals and humans in the village. People fled to the mountains to escape from Nián. One year, there was an old man coming to the village and told people that Nián was most afraid of red, fire and explosion. Since then, every New Year's Eve, families paste red couplets on their doors and red decorations on their windows. Families also set off firecrackers at midnight and stay awake until the next day. Then, people greet their relatives and friends with their best wishes early in the morning. This custom spread more and more widely, became the Spring Festival.


This year, the Spring Festival starts on 12th February and ends on 21st. During the Spring Festival, various traditional New Year activities such as lion dance, dragon dance, temple fair, colourful lantern fair, fireworks, etc. are held all over the country and overseas Chinese communities and there are small differences in the customs due to different regional cultures.


Unfortunately, this year due to the impact of Covid-19, many outdoors mass-gathering events are cancelled. So, what can people do to celebrate the Spring festival at home?


There are many customs and activities people can do with their family members at home, many are symbolising for wishing a good new year. For instance, cleaning home and sweeping dust has the connotation of getting rid of all the bad luck; pasting red decorations add a joyful festive atmosphere and express people's good expectations for the coming year; giving red pocket money carries best wishes from the elders to the younger generation. The younger generation can also give red pocket money to the elders, wishing longevity for parents or grandparents; having the New Year's Eve dinner, also known as the reunion dinner, with your family is the most important event on New Year's Eve. People in the whole family sit together and the food on the table usually has a similar pronunciation to some specific good wishes in mandarin. For instance, fish is pronounced similarly to abundance and lettuce is pronounced similarly to getting rich.


It is a long-held tradition for most Chinese people to return to their hometowns from work and study to reunite with their families during Chinese New Year. Hence, the period of time around the Spring festival (Chunyun) is normally a period of extremely high traffic load. It has been called the largest annual human migration in the world. In 2016, there were 2.9 billion passenger journeys estimated during that year's Chunyun season in China.


Due to covid-19 and travel restrictions, millions of Chinese people living overseas couldn’t get back to their hometowns this year. However, with good luck carries by the year of the Ox and ongoing vaccination programs, hopefully people will reunite with their families soon.