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All About Chinese New Year with Ellie

Seeing things differently is at the heart of real learning, and animals are a great way of getting people to do just that. Chinese New Year, on 10th February, reminds us that our cultural perspective is only one of many. Learn more about it with ZooLab Ranger, Ellie and see her photos from her time living there.

What is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is a festival celebrated at the beginning of the lunisolar Chinese calendar. The spring festival signifies reunion, prosperity and hopes for the near future. It also allows people to reflect on the past year and welcome new experiences.

When is Chinese New Year?

This year, 2024, Chinese New Year is on Saturday, the 10th of February. This date is subject to change each year as Chinese New Year relies on the lunar calendar, which is based on the moon. The holiday will be on the second new moon after the winter solstice, meaning it usually falls between the 21st of January to the 20th of February.

How is Chinese New Year celebrated?

Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15-16 days. In preparation for this spring festival, people will clean their houses, prepare food, buy new clothes, and bid farewell to the old year. Once celebrations begin, firecrackers will be let off, and people will gather to watch dragon and lion dances from across the town. Mooncakes are commonly eaten -they can have varied patterns on the top and have a sweet and nutty flavour. Towns and cities are covered with decorations like lanterns and banners. When meeting family or friends, something called hóng bāo is handed out, which are little red envelopes, usually with money inside. These symbolise good wishes and fortune for the year ahead.

Who is Nian 年兽?

Nian is a mythical beast who is said to live in a mountain cave. It is believed that he leaves his mountain cave every Chinese New Year to find something to eat. Ancestors found that Nian was scared of the colour red and loud noise, so the people of China would decorate their houses with bright colours and set firecrackers to ward off the evil spirit. The Nian dance, also known as the lion or dragon dance, is performed daily to tell the story of Nian and entertain.

How did the Chinese zodiac calendar come to be?

The Jade Emperor is seen to be the ruler of heaven in Chinese culture. He wanted to make time tracking easier for himself and the people of China, so he created a calendar with 12 different animals. These animals were selected via a race, and only the smartest, fastest and most determined animals could win! The animals had to travel across a river and fight for the spots at the top.

Who won the Chinese zodiac race?

The winner of the race was the infamous rat! The rat won by asking for a ride on the back of the ox as it pretended to be too tired to cross the river. The ox didn't know this was the rat's plan to win. Near the finish line, the rat climbed onto the head of the ox and jumped to victory, crossing the finish line and winning first place.

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