20 things you may not know about Chinese New Year!

Here are 20 interesting facts that you probably didn’t know about Chinese New Year.


Here at Tongue in Cheek we love to mark all celebrations, no matter how big or small! It has to be said though; Chinese New Year is one of the biggest festivities of all, with more than 20% of the earth’s population celebrating this bright, colourful and hugely symbolic event! The Spring festival is not just about material giving, there is great emphasis placed on family, friends and the exchange of good luck wishes and hope for a successful New Year.


  1. Spring is on its way! Otherwise known as Chunjie or the Spring Festival this year’s celebrations run from 5th to 19th February 2019. Chinese New Year marks an end to the coldest wintry months and welcomes in new beginnings and the fresh start of Spring! Yay!
  2. Change the date! The Spring Festival dates change every year! Set according to the Lunar Calendar rather than the Western solar format, this year Chinese New Year is on the 5th February 2019.
  3. A long holiday! The period called Little Year starts on 28th January and is a time of preparation and anticipation in the lead up to Chinese New Year! Celebrations culminate in the Lantern Festival on 19th February. Lucky colours, mainly red are used to decorate homes and streets and millions of firecrackers and fireworks are lit to mark the start the New Year.
  4. Off with a bang! Ancient legend tells of a young farmer boy who used firecrackers to scare off a terrible monster called Nian who persistently tormented villagers around the time of New Year. The firecrackers did the trick and have been used to celebrate the demise of Nian and the New Year ever since!
  5. Leave the mess! The paper tubes of the firecrackers are wrapped in red paper, the favourite lucky colour, and are often left around (for at least a day) so as not to ‘sweep away good luck’.
  6. Oink! Oink! Chinese New Year starts a new animal’s zodiac year. There are 12 Chinese zodiac animals. In order, the 12 animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. 2019 is a year of the Pig. Your zodiac animal is decided by your birth year.
  7. In the red! Billions of Chinese New Year red envelopes (“hong bao”) containing money are exchanged as another way of sending good wishes and luck. Red envelopes are given out by older to younger people, from bosses to employees, and from leaders to underlings as a special New Year’s bonus.
  8. Freshly minted! Inside these little red envelopes bank notes must be crisp and new! Often part of the preparation for Chinese New Year involves making sure you have enough new bank notes from the cash machine! If you give worn or damaged notes it is seen as very disrespectful!
  9. Gone digital! You can now give digital red envelopes! Group chats are set up where people send money and others fight over who gets it. This is called qiang hongbao or ‘snatching red pockets’.
  10. Lucky number! Gifts (including money) are best given in lucky number format (for example in multiples of 8, 2 and 6) and numbers with a bad omen are best avoided (for example 4 and 5). Even numbers are always preferred over odd numbers, perhaps a reflection of the Chinese belief in harmony and balance.
  11. Colour me Lucky! Yellow, red and green are considered lucky colours. Red is the Chinese National colour and considered to be the luckiest. Most of the Chinese New Year decorations are red. It represents happiness, beauty, success and good fortune.
  12. Ticket to ride! The Spring Festival causes the largest human migration in the world! Everyone travels home for New Year’s Eve Dinner to celebrate time with their family. Tickets to travel are only sold 2 months beforehand so there is always a mad rush and a bit of a ‘fight’ for tickets! In 2015 more than 1,000 were sold per second!
  13. Wedding bells! During Chinese New Year many parents put pressure on their kids about getting married and settling down. As a result many millennials ‘rent’ a fake boyfriend/girlfriend in order to stave off the nagging to settle down.
  14. Big no-no’s! Chinese New Year taboos include showering on New Year’s Day, sweeping or throwing out rubbish (before the 5th ), getting your hair cut before February 2nd, using scissors, knives or other sharp things or using unlucky words such as death and sickness! This is to make sure that none of the good luck is accidentally washed, cut or thrown away!
  15. Cheers! Alcohol is traditional during Chinese New Year. The Spring Festival has its own special wine called niánjiǔ (年酒). Literally translated, it means “year alcohol.” There’s no enforced drinking age in China. Everyone in the family will at least take a sip on that night. It’s believed that alcohol can prevent bad luck! Each household has a different ‘year alcohol’ that their family drinks, a family favourite, if you like!
  16. Unlucky you if it’s your Zodiac Year! In this year it is seen as unwise to make many moves in career and/or life! Avoid starting a new business, making large investments, traveling too far, moving house or getting married!  Basically, lie low for the year and keep your head down! At the same time ensure you wear red – some people just wear red underwear all year! Adorn yourself with jewellery – jade, crystal and gold possess psychic power, which are good luck and keep you safe! Some even say that making a blood donation also provides good luck!
  17. You’re aging faster than you think! It’s a bit like being the Queen. In China you have 2 birthdays or to put it more precisely 2 ages- your real one and your fake (nominal) one! The real one is the one that we all know about, each year you grown one year older. Your nominal age though, increases with each Spring Festival. In Chinese culture some people use both!
  18. Daily Dumpling! New year’s eve dinner especially is a time for dumplings but strictly speaking you’re supposed to partake of dumpling eating every day during the Spring Festival. This is becauseofthe way they are shaped to look like ancient sliver & gold ingots which symbolize wealth. It is said that the more dumplings you eat during New Year, the more money you will make the following year.
  19. Delicious desserts! From rice cakes that symbolise year after year success to ‘get rich’ muffins. There are always lots of excuses for second helpings!
  20. Be my Chinese Valentine! The festivities culminate in the Lantern Festival which is also sometimes referred to as the Chinese Valentines. This is because in ancient times, girls weren’t allowed to venture out by themselves. But Chinese New Year was seen as a romantic time when they could walk around, gaze at the moon and the beautiful lanterns.

We hope you find this insight interesting and don’t forget if you’re stuck for gift ideas and want a quick solution, check out our Year of the Pig Chinese New Year message boxes. They’re filled with yummy Belgian chocolates and wrapped in bright and cheery packaging. You can even include your own personal Chinese New Year message!


Check them out Here