We in the West might be several weeks into 2017, but for the 1.4 billion people who live in the East, their New Year hasn’t even started yet. If you live in one of the UK’s major cities, you may well find some high-octane celebrations taking place over the next few days as expatriate Chinese communities get into the party spirit. If not, don’t feel glum, because we’ve got everything you need to know right here.

What is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year takes place in late January or early February each year, according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar which follows the cycle of the moon, rather than the sun. Throughout the year, the lunisolar calendar may move faster or slower than that of our own solar based Gregorian calendar, which is why there is no fixed date in our own calendars for each Chinese New Year.

This year, the Chinese New Year will take place on the 28th January 2017, but the party will go on for a lot longer than that. Unlike our single evening celebrations of the 31st December, Chinese New Year traditionally starts the day before the first day of the New Year and ends on the 15th day of the first calendar month. This day is marked with a traditional Lantern Festival, symbolising people letting go of their past selves and embracing a fresh start for the new year.

How is it celebrated?

Chinese New Year is celebrated all over the world, and is a true explosion of light and sound. Many of the traditions which take place are centuries old, and revolve around bringing luck and light to this brand new year. Families traditionally share a meal on the eve of the New Year, and spend New Year’s Day cleaning their homes to rid them of bad spirits and bad fortunes.

Communal celebrations take place in towns and cities, involving dance, music, bellringing and, of course, the fabulous Chinese lion dance. Firecrackers are let off to scare away bad spirits, and red envelopes are exchanged containing money. The money must add up to an even number, as odd numbers are unlucky, and the number four should be avoided as it sounds like the Chinese word for ‘funeral’.

Which animal is going to represent 2017?

If you know anything about the Chinese calendar, you probably know that each year is represented by an animal. This year, it’s the turn of the rooster, or cockerel as we call it in the UK.

Roosters are typically amusing and popular, talkative and charming, and will enjoy good health and an active lifestyle. They are honest and loyal, and are known to enjoy being the centre of attention. On the downside, they can sometimes be vain and boastful. Some of the most famous people born in the Year of the Rooster include Beyoncé Knowles, Rod Steward, Roger Federer, Britney Spears, Jennifer Aniston and Michael Caine.

Celebrate at home

Major UK cities will be laying on Chinese New Year celebrations this weekend, with London’s apparently the largest event outside of Asia. But if you can’t get along to any of these events, you can still enjoy celebrating Chinese New Year in the comfort of your own home. Here are some ideas:

  • Dress up: If you have traditional Chinese clothing, wear it. If not, find something red and silky to wear to look the part.
  • Have a family dinner: Getting the family together is a big part of Chinese New Year, so have a dinner party and invite extended family around to join in. If you know some good Chinese recipes, it might be fun to have an oriental twist to the food.
  • Decorate with roosters: Celebrate the year of the rooster by decorating with a rooster theme. Our rooster oilcloth tablecloth is ideal for the occasion, and is available in all shapes and sizes to fit your table perfectly.
  • Have fireworks: Fireworks or firecrackers are great fun, but also have an important role in chasing away evil spirits at the start of the Chinese New Year.
  • Give gifts: Money in red envelopes is the traditional gift exchanged at this time of year, particularly if you have children in the house.
  • Learn to say Happy New Year: A popular, but mistaken, Chinese New Year greeting is ‘gong hei fat choy’. Actually, this is Cantonese, which is not spoken in the majority of mainland China. If you want to look more educated, you can say xin nian (new year) kuai le (happy), which is pronounced ‘shin nee-an kwai le’.

Whether you and your family celebrate Chinese New Year or not, it’s a great time to find out more about this unique and important celebration for yourself. Discover what animal you were born under yourself, and which years are most lucky to be born in if you’re planning to have a baby.