Happy Lunar New Year of the Goat / Sheep!
On 19 February 2015 approximately one sixth of the world’s population welcomed the Lunar New Year. This year falls under the sign of the Goat in China, but in other parts of Asia, such as South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore it is called the year of the Sheep. It is the longest official holiday in Asia lasting up to 15 days.
Interesting facts to know about the Lunar New Year
Chunyun: The celebrations mark the largest annual human migration event in the world, called chunyun. According to the Chinese media, around 2.8 billion trips will be made this year by plane, train or bus to get students, migrant workers and office employees back to their ancestral homes to celebrate the Lunar New Year with their families.
The Lunar New Year is observed according to the lunar calendar which is based on the cycles of lunar phases. The New Year falls on the second new moon after winter solstice, which can take place between 21 January – 19 February of the Gregorian calendar. The new Year’s Eve is marked by a family reunion dinner, which is the most important meal of the year, and later by the fireworks displays. The following three days are reserved for visiting of relatives and friends and for religious and ancestral worship. In China, the official celebrations end on the 6th day when people return to work and the government institutions and businesses reopen.
All traditional celebrations end on the 15th day of the lunar year with the Lantern Festival
Goat or Sheep?
There is confusion about the animal representing this year. Apparently it was created by the difficulties with translation of the Chinese character “yang” which could be a goat, a sheep or even a ram. In China it is the year of the goat, in South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore it’s the year of the sheep. The Independent explained the dilemma in an article, where you will also find a collection of pictures from this year’s celebrations.
The celebrations are also known under the name “Spring Festival” in China, “Seollal” in South Korea and “Tet Nguyen Dan” (or Tet) in Vietnam.
Other countries & communities celebrating the New Lunar Year:
South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines and in all significant Chinese diaspora around the world, with San Francisco and London observing the largest celebrations outside of Asia.
The Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the year so the celebrations are very festive and elaborate. There are common elements, such as family reunions, ancestral worship, traditional games, visiting family and friends, fireworks, and festive meals. In all countries celebrating the Lunar New Year the preparations begin long before the New Year’s Eve. People clean their homes and sometimes even repaint them, and they decorate them with bonsai trees, blossoming tree branches and red and golden decorations such as lanterns, paper cutouts, New Year paintings and Zodiac signs. Similarly, people buy new clothes and shoes to welcome in “new luck”. The typical gifts of money (Mandarin: “hong bao” or Cantonese: “lai sze”) given to children and unmarried members of the family are also prepared in new bank notes and are presented in red envelopes (or: “red packets”). Both the money and the red envelopes are supposed to bring good luck. Traditional food is of course a very important part of the festivities and each country has their own traditional dishes to mark this special occasion. The food is so important that many families hire professional chefs to prepare the New Year’s dinner. Another traditional way to celebrate is playing games, which differ greatly from country to country (such as these in Vietnam: or these in South Korea).
The end of the celebrations is marked by the Lantern Festival when red lanterns are released into the sky.
red color – good fortune and prosperity,
dragon dance – power, prosperity and good luck
lion dance – prosperity and good luck
long noodles – good health and long life
dumplings – prosperity (gold, money)
fish – abundance
tangerines – prosperity (gold, money)
For more on symbols and traditions look here.
Impact on business operations
Since everybody is travelling up to two weeks before and two weeks after the holidays, the business activities either stop or significantly slow down around the Chinese New Year. During the main days of celebration all businesses and institutions remain closed and reopen after two days in Singapore, eight days in China and three days in Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Macau.
The celebrations have profound impact on production facilities (factory freeze), shipping companies, stock market trading and retail business. It is unwise to try to arrange any official paperwork around this time, so plan ahead!
Trends: There is a new trend in global spending around this time: many Chinese travel abroad to celebrate and as they do, they spend a lot of money on luxury goods which can be up to 30 % cheaper outside China. Another trend is the spike in C-section births around the Lunar Year celebrations as many expecting mothers either don’t want to be stuck in the hospital for the festivities, or they prefer one Zodiac sign to another and try to influence the birth date to fall under the favoured sign.
Year before: Horse
Next year: Monkey