Welcome to the Year of the Sheep!

A quick overview of the Chinese New Year

By Melissa Hucal February 18, 2015
For over four thousand years, Chinese New Year celebrations have marked the end of a long winter and the beginning of spring. The traditional celebration  (also called “Spring Festival”) is based on the Lunar Calendar and corresponds to the first full moon of the year. In 2015, the holiday begins on February 19th.

It’s a holiday wrapped in friends, family and colorful customs.

Why a Sheep?
Each year is assigned an animal that corresponds to the Chinese Zodiac. It is believed that you will take on certain characteristics of the animal for your birth year. This year (2015) is the Year of the Sheep (you may also see it referred to as the Year of the Ram or the Year of the Goat).

That means that babies born during this year (February 19, 2015 to February 7, 2016) will assume qualities of the sheep: kindness, elegance, creativity and loyalty.

Preparing for the New Year
A new year also brings a new start! To get ready for all of the possibilities of the new year, it’s customary to get rid of any bad luck that may have built up in your home during the past year by cleaning it from top to bottom. This also creates a “clean slate” for all the good luck and prosperity of the new year to cling to. (On a side note, in times when bathing didn’t occur on a regular schedule, the New Year was occasion for people to take a bath to welcome in the new year!)

Food is also prepared ahead of time. It can take days to prepare the feasts that will be enjoyed by family, friends and visitors on New Year's Day and the days that follow. But it’s important that these preparations are completed ahead of time as a popular Chinese superstition states that using a knife early in the New Year will “cut off” any good luck that might come to you!

Celebrating the New Year
The Chinese New Year begins with a New Year’s Eve Dinner and fireworks. Families gather together in their homes instead of dining in restaurants and enjoy feasts that may include fish and dumplings - two foods that signify prosperity. Fireworks are then launched right after midnight to celebrate and drive away evil. It’s quite an honor to be the person who launches the first firework as it’s believed that this person will have good luck.

The Chinese New Year also brings gifts of money - particularly for the children - that are presented in red envelopes.

The celebration comes to a close on the 15th day of the lunar month with a lantern festival. Lanterns are also popular decorations for Chinese New Year. In many areas, the lantern festival is accompanied by a dragon dance where men dance in the streets as they hold up a hundred foot dragon made of paper, silk and bamboo.

As the longest public holiday in China, the New Year Festival is, above all, a reunion for families as generations gather to not only celebrate, but also enjoy time together.

Want to know more about the Chinese New Year? Visit these sites that we consulted while writing this article!
Chinese New Year info
Chinese New Year: 2015 
Chinese Spring Festival 2015: Tradition, History, Day-By-Day Guide