Chinese New Year 2019: Everything you need to know
The dog will stop barking for another eleven years on February 5th, as the first day of Chinese New Year 2019 makes way for the Year of the Pig. Read on for all you need to know about the traditions and events held to mark the new year, and ideas on how you can celebrate in your city.
Year of the Pig
The pig is the final animal in the Chinese zodiac, following an ancient folk tale where the pig finished last in a race with the other animals. In Chinese culture, pigs symbolise wealth, but if the pig is your sign, a repeat of your birth year is your 本命年, běn mìng nián, so, traditionally your unluckiest year! Not sure what your Chinese Zodiac Sign is? Find out here.
All things pig
With the Year of the Pig set to last 354 days (with next year’s Rat lasting 384) there’s plenty of time to appreciate everything porcine! Pigs have been central to Chinese culture and cuisine for thousands of years, with the country home to underrated indigenous breeds, like the panda pig in Jinhua. It’s possible to encounter free-roaming wild boars on a morning hike in Hong Kong. Bizarrely, Peppa Pig has enjoyed a period of fame in China as a symbol of rebellion (yes, really!) and of family. But the original cartoon pig is Hong Kong’s McDull, a much-loved comic strip character immortalised in bronze at Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars.
Gōng xǐ fā cái, in Mandarin, or gung1 hei2 faat3 coi4 in Cantonese is the traditional Chinese New Year greeting. Roughly translated, 恭禧發財 wishes prosperity and fortune for the coming year. So, when people greet you during Chinese New Year, how do you reply? Well, return the same phrase and wish them a prosperous year too! Alternatively, a cheeky addition is 紅包拿來, Hóng bāo ná lái, meaning “give me a red envelope!”, which symbolises a cash-filled new year gift from family and friends.
Do’s and don’ts
The Lunar New Year is an auspicious time in the Chinese calendar, with various traditions and taboos to bear in mind. Many clean their homes before the 28th January, because to sweep on New Year is to sweep away your luck. The same goes for washing your hair! Wear red and decorate your home with crimson paper cuttings. Also, don’t argue or cry – your behaviour now foreshadows the year to come, so make it joyous and have a blessed fifteen days! On New Year’s Eve, enjoy an eight-course reunion dinner, and see in the year with firecrackers and fireworks (or, livestream impressive displays online).
Get involved in your city
How can you take part in your city’s celebrations? A trip to your nearest Chinatown would be a start. Liverpool has Europe’s oldest Chinese quarter, with the biggest traditional archway outside of China. The districts are vibrant in Manchester and Birmingham, while Sheffield’s will open in 2019. Glasgow welcomes the largest Chinese population in Scotland, and of course there’s London, with numerous authentic eateries and Bubble Tea stores like Chatime and Yifang. Each city will host events for the new year. Meanwhile, check your local Confucius Institute to see what’s in store!
Top Chinese games to try
For something more current, download Chinese messaging app, Wechat, where you can send digital hóng bāo and scan QR codes you’ll find are ubiquitous in Chinatown. Tiktok or 抖音 is great for short, funny videos, while Battlegrounds, known colloquially in China as 吃鸡 (Eat Chicken), is extremely popular to play with friends. Drinking games include Liar’s Dice and card games like Dà Lǎo Èr (Big Two). Ask a Chinese friend to teach you!
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