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2020 is the Year of the Rat according to the 12 year animal zodiac cycle. The new year in 2020 starts on January 25th.
Chinese New Year Origins
Chinese New Year (過年) is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is known as ‘Spring Festival’, the literal translation of the Chinese name 春節 (Pinyin: Chūnjié). The holiday traditionally starts on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar and lasts for 15 days. The 15th day is the full moon and also the day of the lantern festival.
Chinese New Years is celebrated throughout most Asian countries. In addition, Chinatowns all over the world will mark the holiday with parades, decorations, firecrackers, and big dinners.
Chinese New Year in Taiwan
Taiwanese usually begin preparing for the holiday several weeks in advance. It is common to see Chinese New Year markets popping up over the city to sell traditional red decorations for houses and door frames.
On Chinese New Years Eve, families will start to gather and many stay up all until midnight. At midnight, it is common to hear firecrackers and fireworks being lit to bring in the new year. (although they are illegal in urban areas.) Some families may stay up all night playing cards or MaJiang. Others will prepare for a big feast the next day.
In Taiwan, many will stay with their immediate families on the first day of the lunar New Year. Cities are generally quiet as many families have returned to the countryside to stay with husband’s grandparents. On the second day of the New Year, highways will be crowded with people “Hui Niang Jia”. On this day, families will return to the in-laws homestead, wife’s family, for the day to celebrate the New Year.
Days 3 and 4 are usually for eating, going out, relaxing, and visiting old friends. It is a true vacation time for most of the island. The 5th day is usually back to work day for many companies and the government. However, there have been times where the CNY holiday has extended for the entire week.
Traditional Red Envelopes
Red Envelopes 红包（hong-bao）are given to children by their elders during CNY. The red envelopes contain money that children either may spend or most likely give to their parents. The amount of the money is also an even number. 6’s and 8’s are also considered lucky. ex. 600, 800, 1600, 8000, 8888 etc.
Chinese New Year is also all about bringing in a “New Year”. Thus, it is common to see stores flooded with consumers buying new clothes, appliances, and even cars. It is believed that one should begin the new year fresh and clean. In addition, any ill wills towards others, debts, and unfinished business should be taken care of before the beginning of the new year. It is believed that this will ensure prosperity in the coming year.
The Lantern Festival
The lantern festival 元宵節（yuan-xiao-jie）actually occurs on the 15th day of the lunar calendar. By this time, Taiwanese adults and children are back to their routines of work and school. However, cities and towns will hold Lantern Festival activities that last up to two weeks in some places.
Usually, these activities are a carnival like scene with food stalls, shopping stalls, performances, and most importantly hundreds of lanterns. The lanterns are most made by school children aged 5-20. They can be simple designs, or ornate themed works of art. They look beautiful at night and many people can be expected to attend on the weekends. Most of the lantern festivals are actually a competition and ribbons go to the winners.
The Lantern Festival came about when the people of ancient China first believed that celestial spirits could be seen flying about during the light of the first full moon of the new lunar year. They would search using torches evolved into the current celebrations of colorful lanterns being built and then displayed at temples and parks. Many years ago in the past in the children were given lanterns to carry on the school day of the New Year.
Chinese New Year in modern times
Though Chinese New Years is still celebrated by many Taiwanese in a more traditional manner, many Taiwanese also take time off to take a vacation out of the country. Since the holiday can sometimes be up to 9 days of vacation for some, and since students are on winter holiday, Taiwanese will take advantage of the longest holiday of the year and spend time abroad. This has led to airline ticket and hotel prices to jump at this time of the year especially to popular vacations spots like Japan, Thailand, and Bali.
Future Lunar Calendar Chinese New Year dates and animal zodiacs:
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If you’re interested in finding your zodiac animal, here are the English and Chinese 中文 versions in the order of the cycle: the rat (shu) 鼠, the ox (niu) 牛, the tiger (hu) 虎, the rabbit (tu) 兔, the dragon (long) 龍, the snake (she) 蛇, the horse (ma) 馬, the goat (yang) 羊, the monkey (hou) 猴, the rooster (ji) 雞, the dog (gou) 狗, and the pig (zhu) 豬. If you’re looking for the accurate translations of these characters you’ll need to consult google translate for the tones.