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Happy Chinese New Year 2020

17th January 2020

Sarah Place

Happy Chinese New Year! 2020 is the Year of the Rat!

Chinese New Year - Year of the Rat


This year, Spring Festival begins with Chinese New Year on Saturday 25th January and lasts until Tuesday 4th February.

2020 is the Year of the Rat, which is the first of the 12 animals in the zodiac cycle. Restarting the zodiac cycle means new beginnings are possible for all.

In 2021 it’s the year of the Ox. After that each year is as follows: Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

So how was this order decided? According to one myth, the Jade Emperor wanted to choose an animal to be his guard, so he ordered a race between the 12 animals. The rat came first which is why this is the first of the zodiac animals.


What are the characteristics of the rat?

Those born in the year of the Rat are said to be clever, quick thinkers, resourceful and kind. They can be versatile and inquisitive; they like to be on the go and have busy minds.

There are different types of rat depending on the year you were born, these include wood, fire, earth, metal and water rats. 2020 is the year of the metal rat. Metal rats are loyal and positive but can also be very sensitive and stubborn.

Lucky colours for the rat are blue, gold and green and lucky numbers are 2 and 3.

Unlucky colours are yellow and brown and unlucky numbers are 5 and 9.

For those born in the year of the rat, lucky months in 2020 include March, September and October.


What superstitions are associated with Chinese New Year? Here are some Do’s and Don’ts:

Do …

… wear red on New Year’s Day as it is believed to be lucky and prevent bad events in the coming year. Red is a national colour of China and represents wealth, luck and happiness.

… avoid the use of any negative words on New Year’s Day as this negativity will continue throughout the year.

… bring oranges as a gift to anyone you visit during the celebrations. This is believed to symbolise the sharing of luck, good fortune and happiness.

Do not …

… sweep up or take the rubbish out on New Year’s Day.  It is believed that sweeping up will sweep your wealth away and taking the rubbish out will remove good luck from the house. Before New Year, people may clean their houses to remove any bad luck for the coming year.

… wash or cut your hair on the first day of the New Year as this will wash away your good luck for the rest of the year. The first two days of the new year are also the Water God’s birthday, therefore washing of hair or clothes is believed to be disrespectful.

… mention any illnesses or ailments on New Year’s Day. It is thought that you’ll bring these illnesses with you into the new year.


How is Chinese New Year celebrated?

Decorations such as red lanterns and paper cuttings of auspicious symbols are displayed in houses as red is believed to drive away bad luck. These decorations also line the streets in towns and cities across China and other parts of the world.

Chinese New Year galas are organised in China and across the world and the most famous ‘Spring Festival Gala’ is televised in China on New Year’s Eve. During these galas, you can see parades of brightly coloured dancing dragons and lions, Chinese opera performances and spectacular acrobatic shows.

On New Year’s Eve, families come together for a celebration meal called the reunion dinner. Across China, people travel back to their family homes to celebrate and welcome the new year together. After the meal, parents give their children money in little red envelopes, another way of bringing luck into the next year.


What food is typically consumed at the reunion dinner?


Represents: Prosperity

A whole fish is generally presented at the meal with the idea that there will be some left over to bring into the new year. This symbolizes the hope that there will be enough food for the family throughout the year.

Jiaozi (Dumplings)

Represent:  Wealth and Luck

Dumplings represent wealth because of their shape which is similar to that of old Chinese money.  They are normally filled with pork, shrimp or cabbage and flavoured with ginger and soy sauce.

Spring Rolls

Represent: Wealth

Generally filled with vegetables, meat or something sweet, spring rolls take their name from the celebration during which they’re usually enjoyed, Spring festival. They represent wealth because they resemble little bars of gold.

Nian Gao (rice cake or New Year Cake)

Represent: Wealth, family and success

These sweet cakes symbolize a number of different things: wealth because the cake is sweet and rich, family togetherness because of their circular shape and success because the layers represent the achievement of something new each year. The cakes differ across regions in China but remain a key part of the reunion meal.


Represent: Longevity

Long noodles are thought to symbolise long lives therefore these noodles are not allowed to be cut when cooked or eaten.

Tangerines or oranges

Represent: Luck, abundance, happiness and good fortune

There are a number of reasons why oranges are believed to bring luck, but one reason is that the Chinese character for tangerine (桔) contains the character for luck (吉). They are also similar in colour to gold which represents wealth. For this reason, tangerines are also a symbol of happiness and you will likely find potted plants with miniature oranges displayed around people’s houses during the new year.


Which zodiac animal are you?

If 2020 is the year of the Rat, find out which animal you are depending on the year you were born.

Zodiac animal Year
Rat 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
Ox 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
Tiger 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
Rabbit 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
Dragon 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
Snake 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
Horse 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
Goat 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015
Monkey 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016
Rooster 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017
Dog 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018
Pig 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019


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