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Chinese New Year 2024. Let the Year of the Dragon begin
The Eastern tradition that has conquered our cities

On 10 February 2024 Chinese people all over the world will say farewell to the Water Rabbit and welcome the Dragon. And around that date, a long series of parades and ceremonies connects western Chinatowns with the East. Let’s explore this colourful and fascinating tradition together.

The date for the festival is not calculated by the Gregorian calendar but the lunar one, which has 12 months and 353 or 355 days. In the Chinese lunar calendar each month starts with a new moon, and the second new moon after the winter solstice marks the start of the new year. This means that the date of the New Year celebrations varies, but always falls between 21 January and 20 February.

How is the transition celebrated? New Year’s Eve is spent with family and friends, with a dinner featuring traditional dishes: dumplings are a must, as is fish, whose Chinese character, , sounds like the word for abundance and is therefore considered good luck. Moreover, young people in the family are given red envelopes containing money. The amount given usually ends in 8, the luckiest number.

Chinese New Year is dominated by the colour red, from clothing to rice-paper wall hangings. The New Year origin story refers to the Nian – “year” – a monster which, according to legend, was known to attack and devour villagers on the coldest days of the year. The story goes that one night Nian was successfully scared off by the colour red. Ever since, the Chinese decorate their homes with red at this time of year, hanging strips of red paper on doors and windows. They also light torches and set off fireworks to scare the Nian away.

In the days following New Year’s Eve in China – and in Chinatowns the world over – there are extremely popular processions and festivals. The streets are decorated with red lights and lanterns. Key figures in the parades are the dragon (symbol of the Emperor) and the lion (symbol of power). The celebrations continue for 15 days, and conclude with the spectacular Lantern Festival.

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