8 Things You Didn’t Know About Chinese New Year

By Anu Sundaravelu

Just a few weeks ago, thousands of partygoers donned bright and tight outfits as they hit the bars and clubs across the UK to mark the arrival of 2020. Whilst it all seems like a distant memory to most Westerners, the Chinese are gearing up to celebrate their own new year – the Spring Festival. Each year, the festival falls on a different date, but this year celebrations will commence on January 25th to bring in the Year of the Rat. As always, the Chinese do things a little differently, so we thought we’d share some interesting facts about how things are done in the East! 

1. 2020 is the Year of the Rat

In Chinese tradition, each year is named after one of twelve animals, which feature in the Chinese zodiac. The animals will have a year dedicated to them once every 12 years in a cycle and each animal is associated with a certain set of characteristics. This year happens to be the Year of the Rat, which is the first of the twelve animal signs on Chinese astrology. Accordingly, the Rat is seen to be the resourceful leader of the pack, at the forefront of the action and a symbol of innovation and vitality.

2. It’s China’s Longest Holiday

The Chinese love their celebrations and the New Year is no different, with the celebrations lasting not one but sixteen days. On the 15th day of the new year, the Chinese release paper lanterns, some even writing riddles on them for others to solve.  This tradition symbolises letting go of one’s old self and becoming a new person. 

3. The Best Gifts Come In Red Envelopes

Instead of wrapping paper or tinsel, the Chinese prefer to exchange gifts in red envelopes. It is common practice to present family and friends with red envelopes, typically containing money. Red envelopes are even given by bosses to employees as a special New Year’s bonus, sometimes containing a month’s worth of pay.  In fact, we’re wondering when the UK will follow suit! 

Nowadays, with China embracing digital methods, red envelopes are sent electronically through WeChat or similar platforms. In a fun practice called qiang hongbao (抢红包), or literally “snatching red packets”, people send a red envelope into group chats and watch the others fight for the money. 

4. Fireworks Are Big On Chinese New Year But Actually Banned in Big Cities

The Chinese celebrate the defeat of a monster named Nian (年) that comes about every New Year’s Eve. Legend has it that one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers, which is why fireworks are such a huge part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.  However, as a result of pollution and safety issues, it is now illegal to set off your own fireworks in most big Chinese cities. The government organised firework displays and encourage citizens to attend these events instead of lighting their own fireworks. 

5. It Causes The World’s Largest Migration

Spending New Year’s Eve with family is the most important aspect of the Chinese New year. Since most of the population work in major cities and their families live in rural areas, 200 million Chinese citizens from the mainland travel long distances for these holidays, making up a whopping 3.5 billion journeys across China. Tens of millions of people travel in other countries too making it the largest annual human migration in the world, known as the Spring Festival Travel Rush.

6. You Can Give Your Bath a Miss!

Interestingly, the Chinese believe taking a shower on New Year’s Day will wash off the good luck that accompanies the New Year! It’s also considered taboo to clip nails, get a haircut or take out the trash, or even wash clothes on the first and second day. What a reason to rejoice – a clad -iron excuse to ignore that growing laundry pile – no wonder it is such a celebrated festival! 

7. Odd Numbers Are Avoided 

Odd numbers are considered inauspicious, especially when gifting money to someone else. Always make sure that if you’re giving cash to someone, the total equals an even number, with the exception of the number 4. Certain even numbers are considered to be extra prosperous, such as the numbers six and eight whilst others are considered to particularly unlucky such as the number four. 

8. You Can Rent a Boyfriend or Girlfriend For New Year’s

With Chinese New Year being the biggest celebration in China, this is a fitting opportunity for girlfriends and boyfriends to meet the family. However, if you’re single and want to avoid the awkward questions from family members, it is Chinese custom to rent a partner for the day. In fact, there are websites and agents specialised in this business, and it would cost roughly 100 yuan (16 USD) a day. Sounds like the Chinese have a solution for everything, right?


The Chinese New Year marks the end of the coldest days of the year. It’s a season to welcome the Spring and everything associated with it: harvests, new blossoms and fresh starts. What better time to break into the Chinese market? Get in touch  with us today and we’ll devise a bespoke China strategy tailored to your business needs. 

JGOO wishes you a Happy Chinese New Year and the best of luck for the Year of the Rat!

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