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Before and during the Lunar New Year, many Chinese people decorate their houses in red

Photo: Andy Wong / AP

“Dinner for One”, raclette and flying champagne corks: This is how many Germans welcome the New Year. In China, however, New Year's Eve only plays a minor role. Instead, the residents of the country of 1.4 billion celebrate the New Year on a different date according to the traditional lunar calendar.

The new year in 2024 begins on February 10th. Here you can find out why the traditional holiday is so important for many Chinese people and why it always falls on a different day.

What is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is the most important traditional holiday in the People's Republic. Preparations begin long before the date, which this year falls on February 10th. The New Year is usually celebrated exclusively with the family, which is why hundreds of millions of people travel to visit their relatives around the festival. In 2023 alone, the Ministry of Transport forecast more than two billion journeys in the weeks around the holidays. It is not for nothing that it is considered “the largest annual migration of peoples in the world.” The New Year celebration is also known as the “Spring Festival” or “Lunar New Year” and – as in this country – is rung in with fireworks, especially in the countryside. In large cities like Beijing this is prohibited for security reasons.

Each year is also assigned a new animal sign: The inhabitants of China are therefore heading towards the Year of the Dragon, which means that the Year of the Rabbit is completed. The dragon is considered popular; it represents luck, intelligence and wealth. A total of twelve different animal signs alternate (rat, buffalo, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig). The Chinese wish for success and happiness in the New Year, and gifts also play a role. It is not uncommon for red envelopes containing money to be given away.

How long does it take?

The Chinese New Year begins on the first day of the Chinese calendar and traditionally ends on the 15th day with the so-called Lantern Festival (also called the “Yuanxiao Festival”). Various customs and rituals extend throughout the entire period, which can vary from region to region. Families celebrate the evening before New Year's Day with a large meal, often serving dumplings called "Jiaozi." They are said to be reminiscent of ancient coins and bring wealth. The first six days of the New Year are public holidays and all shops remain closed during this period.

But things get particularly interesting in the weeks before the festival: Because a dangerous monster that, according to legend, terrifies China once a year is frightened away by the colors red and gold, many Chinese people decorate their houses in these colors . Typical New Year's decorations are red paper strips at house entrances and red glowing lanterns.

Why does it always fall on a different day?

The date of the New Year is based on the traditional Chinese lunar calendar and falls on a different day each year. However, it always takes place between January 21st and February 21st. The dates for the coming years at a glance:

  • January 29, 2025 (Year of the Wood Snake)

  • February 17, 2026 (Year of the Fire Horse)

  • February 6, 2027 (Year of the Fire Goat)

  • January 26, 2028 (Year of the Earth Monkey)

  • February 13, 2029 (Year of the Earth Rooster)

  • February 3, 2030 (Year of the Metal Dog)

Is Chinese New Year only celebrated in China?

No, Chinese New Year is celebrated worldwide. Outside China, it is particularly popular in Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam and the southern Japanese prefecture of Okinawa. It is celebrated in all countries where many Chinese live. These also include Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Outside Asia, residents of Chinatowns in New York, London and Sydney also take part in traditional rituals.