It is very likely that we have heard people addressing 2024 as the year of the green dragon, but many people don’t understand the meaning behind that. Here are some facts that you might find interesting to know about the Chinese New Year. 

When is it this year? 

The Chinese New Year also known as the ‘Spring Festival’ or ‘Lunar New Year’ is a 15-day festival, but it doesn’t have a designated date for the celebration. It usually falls at the start of the spring season in the northern hemisphere. Last year (2023) it was on January 22nd cerebrating the animal sign of the Rabbit. This year it falls on the 10th of February. The day seems to fluctuate between the end of January and the beginning of February. 

How and when did the Chinese New Year originate? 

There are many legends of how this festival begun but one of the most popular versions of the legends is that about 3,500 years ago a mythical beast Nian had lots of livestock, crops and even people of New Year’s Eve. To prevent this from happening people used to put food at their doors for Nian. It is suggested that a wise old man learnt that Nian feared loud noises and the colour red. Ever since, to prevent the monster from returning, people have been leaving red lanterns and red scrolls on their windows and doors, as well as crackles bamboo (which was later replaces with firecrackers). Interestingly Nian, ‘yearly beast’ sounds the same as ‘year’ in Chinese! 

Where did the idea of animals come from? 

Celebrating the start of a new year on a lunisolar calendar, each year it focuses on one of the 12 zodiac animals which rotate annually. It is believed that the order of the animals comes from the tory of the ‘Great Race’ when the emperor of that time (one of the most important gods in the Chinese tradition) invited some animals to a race consisting of 12 species. The order of which the animals came in the race is seen to be like this: 

  1. The rabbit 
  2. The rat 
  3. The ox 
  4. The dragon (this year’s animal) 
  5. The snake 
  6. The horse 
  7. The sheep 
  8. The monkey 
  9. The rooster 
  10. The dog 
  11. The pig 
  12. The tiger. 

This year’s animal, a dragon, is the 5th place in the Great race and the dragon was thought to be brave, charismatic and a natural leader – it has been –seen as the most desirable sign. However, its weakness is the lack of willpower, inflexibly and stubbornness.  

So, there are some basic facts about the Chinese New Year!