In this article, we will list the most important information relating to Chinese New Year 2019 ranging from the New Year zodiac animal to the holiday traditions. Our travel tips will also help you to discover the most interesting ways to experience Chinese New Year if you are interested in visiting China during this period.
When is Chinese New Year in 2019?
According to the Chinese lunar calendar (the first month), Chinese New Year in 2019 is on February 5th.
Timetable for Chinese New Year in 2019
As the most important festival in China, various activities and customs are observed during the Spring Festival. The main two are bidding farewell to the old year and greeting the new year. In the broad sense, the Spring Festival can be celebrated from the 8th day of the 12th lunar month to the 15th day of the first lunar month. There are all kinds of traditions Chinese people follow to celebrate this significant festival:
|Date||Chinese Lunar Calendar||Activities||Travel Tips|
|January 13th||The 8th day of the 12th month||Offer sacrifices to ancestors and gods; hope to drive evil away by beating a big drum; perform an exorcism dance; and watch a Nuo opera performance. Local people like to eat a bowl of Laba congee (rice porridge with nuts and dried fruit) to celebrate this day.||Not busy. It’s not a public holiday.|
|January 28th or 29th||The 23rd day (North China) or 24th day (South China)||This day is also called “Small New Year”, which means the new year is coming. The Kitchen God is sent back to heaven and sugar is often used as an offering. The Kitchen God isn’t as holy as other gods in Chinese people’s minds.||Not busy.|
|January 28th to February 4th||About 10 days before Chinese New Year||Prepare for the Spring Festival, such as sweeping rooms, purchasing new clothes and food, and hanging up spring couplets and pictures.||Very busy. About 7 days before Chinese New Year, the public transportation becomes crowded. Book your tickets as early as possible.|
|February 4th||The last day of the last month||Chinese New Year’s Eve — have a reunion dinner with the family and stay up all night.||Public transportation is better but urban traffic is busy. Most shops and restaurants will be closed very early (just after midday).|
|February 5th||The first day of the first month||The Spring Festival — loud fireworks are set off everywhere at midnight; kids receive red envelopes; greetings are given to family members.||Quiet. Most official companies and small shops will be closed on this day. It’s very inconvenient to travel.|
|February 6th to 8th||The second day to the fourth day of the first month||Greetings are given to relatives and friends.||A few shops will be open.|
|February 9th to 10th||The fifth day and the sixth day of the first month||Most people’s holidays are near to an end.||Incredibly busy. Most Chinese people head to the city they work in.|
|February 19th||The 15th day of the first month||The end of Chinese New Year — eat rice dumplings made of glutinous rice filled with sugar and other ingredients, and then admire festive lanterns in the streets together during the day.||Fairly busy. People will go back home if they are staying close to their hometown.|
Chinese New Year Animal in 2019
The Chinese New Year animal for 2019 is the pig.
- Were You Born in a Year of the Pig?
The pig is the 12th zodiac animal and is regarded as a symbol of good luck and fortune. Pig years include 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019. In China, parents will prepare red clothes, socks, or a cestus for their children if they were born in a Pig year.
- Fun Story about the Original Year of the Pig
All animals wanted to be one of the zodiac animals. In order to select 12 animals, the Jade Emperor set a competition stating that they must arrive at the Heavenly Palace at the appointed time. Although the pig got up early and ran for a long time, its fat shape hindered it so that it was unable to arrive there on time. The pig had tried its best though and really want to be picked. The Jade Emperor was moved by its honesty and endeavors, so agreed that it should be selected as one of the zodiac animals.
Chinese New Year Activities and Traditions
During Chinese New Year, Han people and other ethnic minorities hold various activities to celebrate this important festival. These activities are mainly about worshipping gods, making sacrifices to ancestors, bidding farewell to the old year, greeting the new year, and praying for a good harvest. Below, we have provided you with details about the most common New Year traditions in China.
Preparations: Sweeping, Shopping, and Decorating Buildings
Most Chinese people try their best to return to their hometowns before Chinese New Year. Making preparations for the Spring Festival is a must-do activity, just like decorating a Christmas tree is for the Christmas holiday in the United States.
The custom of sweeping dust away originated in the era of the emperors Yao and Shun. It developed from a religious ritual used to exorcise disease. No matter what size a person’s house is, cleaning the rooms is considered a blessing that will drive away bad things and welcome the new year.
During the New Year holiday, family members will reunite at home while most shops and restaurants are closed. Shopping in preparation for this time is not just to purchase lucky goods but is also to store enough food for the family members. What do Chinese people buy for the Spring Festival?
- Food and drink: meat, snacks, vegetables, nuts, fruit, seafood, and wine
- New clothes: Every family member needs a new look for the new year.
- Lucky goods: fireworks, red decorations, lanterns, papercuttings, red envelops, couplets, and New Year pictures
Lucky red lanterns, papercuttings, couplets, and pictures are used to decorate Chinese people’s rooms before the New Year celebrations begin. This is not only to create a festive atmosphere but to give blessings to family members.
Chinese New Year’s Eve: Have a Reunion Dinner and Stay Up All Night
Chinese New Year has more of a sense of ritual than the Western New Year’s Day. Family members stay together and chat happily. They may return home from different corners of the world and possibly haven’t seen their families since the previous New Year’s holiday. A lot of things may have changed during the year.
- Have a Reunion Dinner
For Chinese New Year, people's first wish is to have a family reunion. A dinner is held on the 30th (or 29th) of the 12th lunar month, commonly known as New Year's Eve dinner. The food is abundant and all family members are required to be present, which is why it is referred to as a reunion. If a family member is unable to return home due to the long distance, the other family members will keep an empty seat for him/her at the table. The most popular foods eaten on this day often have lucky meanings, such as “surplus” fish, “every year is getting better” niangao, and “wealthy” stir-fried cabbage with bean sprouts.
- Stay Up All Night for the Arrival of the New Year
After the reunion dinner, people stay up to say goodbye to the current year and wait for the new year to begin. Chinese people have regarded midnight as the being the start of the day since the Han Dynasty. Therefore, staying up after midnight is an essential tradition. During this time, people like to drink wine and eat jiaozi or niangao to drive away evil spirits.
New Year’s Day: Set Off Fireworks, Greet Family Members, and Give Gifts
The first way to celebrate Chinese New Year is to set off beautiful fireworks. Cities’ skylines are filled with spectacular fireworks at midnight — some look like shining stars while others resemble round flowers. Different customs have come about, however, in recent years:
- Set off fireworks: Fireworks are used to drive away a horrible monster called Nian in Chinese legend. However, Chinese people have to face a negative result of this practice after the activity — air pollution. In recent years, in some appointed areas, especially big cities, it is forbidden for people to set off fireworks even though it is the Spring Festival. If you want to watch a firework show in China, don’t forget to ask the local people where to go.
- Give New Year gifts and lucky money: Kids and elderly people will receive lots of gifts from their parents or children on New Year’s Day. Chinese people put lucky money into red envelopes (nowadays young people prefer to use mobile payments) and then give these envelopes to children. In reality, everyone receives these envelopes because it’s considered to be a blessing, so it’s not just exclusive to children. Depending on people’s relationships with others, the lucky money received can range from 100 to 1,000 yuan.
- Greet family members: Chinese people like to spend this precious day with their family members. The first thing to do after waking up is to greet other family members, which is called Bainian in Chinese.
How to Greet Chinese People on New Year’s Day
- The most popular blessing is: Happy New Year’s Day and I wish you all the best for this year (新年快乐，万事如意).
- Give a blessing to a Chinese female: Happy New Year’s Day and I hope you get more and more beautiful (新年快乐，希望你越来越美丽).
- Say a blessing to an elderly Chinese person: Happy New Year’s Day and I hope you live to be 100 years old (新年快乐，希望您长命百岁).
- Give a blessing to a Chinese man: Happy New Year’s Day and I hope your profits pour in from all sides (新年快乐，希望你财源滚滚).
- Say a blessing to a Chinese kid: Happy New Year’s Day and I hope you learn more and more (新年快乐，希望你学习越来越好).
Greet Relatives After New Year’s Day
Chinese people will pay visits to all their relatives from the second day to the fifth day of the Chinese lunar calendar. Most relatives, hometown friends, and schoolmates return home during the Spring Festival. People will sit together and happily chat about past memories or the future. They are happy to meet up and hear about what’s been happening in each other’s lives.
The End of the Spring Festival: the Lantern Festival
The Lantern Festival is not only an important traditional festival but it also symbolizes the ending of the Spring Festival. In Chinese, the Lantern Festival is called Yuanxiao Jie. This means the first full-moon night (February 19th, 2019) in the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar.
Watching colorful lanterns, guessing lantern riddles, cheering at a dragon dance, and eating yuanxiao (sweet dumplings made of glutinous rice flour) are the most popular traditions followed to celebrate the Lantern Festival.
Should you visit China during Chinese New Year and, if so, where should you visit? The following tips can help you to decide.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Traveling During Chinese New Year
- Low cost: Chinese people go back to their hometowns so hotels are cheaper during the Spring Festival.
- Less crowded: Some Chinese people like to travel during New Year but most prefer to spend the holiday at home with their family members.
- Winter: The Spring Festival is in winter. Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, and Guilin will be very cold. Hong Kong, Hainan Province, and Yunnan Province, however, are comfortable for traveling.
- Traffic jams: Train and flight tickets will be expensive or difficult to get hold of before the festival and at the end of the Spring Festival. However, if you buy tickets from New Year’s Eve to the second day of the new year or after the fifth day of the new year, they are easier and cheaper to buy.
- Many shops are closed: Most small shops and restaurants will be closed during the Spring Festival but supermarkets and attractions will remain open as normal.
Where to Visit During Chinese New Year
- The Forbidden City (Beijing): Without large crowds and a lot of noise, the Forbidden City is more solemn and beautiful in winter, especially when it’s snowing in Beijing.
- The Great Wall (Beijing): Outdoor activities may not be popular during the cold winter but the blue sky and fewer people make the Great Wall a charming option.
- The Terracotta Army (Xi’an): Visiting indoor attractions is popular during the hot summer or the cold winter. The site of the Terracotta Army is a good place to visit during the Spring Festival.
- The Li River in Yangshuo (Guilin): Guilin is in South China. Winter in Guilin is not as cold as in Beijing, Xi’an, or Shanghai. In winter, you don’t need to waste time queuing or to pay as much money for things as you would have to during peak months. The Yangshuo landscapes offer peaceful surroundings.
- Yunnan or Hainan: Located in South China, Yunnan and Hainan provinces are considered to be winter paradises for their warm weather. Lijiang, Dali, Xishuangbanna, and Sanya are adorned by sunshine and beautiful landscapes. If you dislike the cold climate but still want to experience Chinese culture, they are perfect areas for you to visit.
- Hong Kong: Located in the southernmost section of China, Hong Kong is popular all year round. With less of a language barrier and more modern facilities, your travel experience will be smoother.