On January 1, most Americans wake up to a brand new year. In China, however, people celebrate the new year according to the Chinese lunar calendar. The Chinese lunar calendar is based on the moon’s cycle, instead of our Gregorian calendar, which is based on the sun’s cycle.

The Chinese New Year is one of the most important Chinese holidays. The celebration traditionally begins on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar (the new moon) and ends on the 15th day with a special Lantern Festival (the full moon).

Much like our New Year’s Eve celebrations, it is a time for Chinese families to gather together to enjoy each other’s company.

In many homes, families work together to clean the house. The cleaning symbolizes sweeping away any bad fortune to make space for incoming good luck in the new year. Families decorate windows and doors with red paper cutouts representing happiness, wealth and longevity.

On the eve of the Chinese New Year, families feast together. Fireworks conclude the celebration.

Early the next morning, children greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year. Then parents give their children money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year is a time for forgiveness and wishing peace and happiness to all.

The moon’s cycle repeats itself every 12 years. Since the Chinese calendar follows the lunar calendar, Chinese astrology names each new year after one of 12 animals.

According to Chinese legend, Buddha (the spiritual teacher from ancient India who founded the Buddhist religion popular in China) invited all the animals on Earth to join him for a celebration of the new year, but only 12 animals showed up. To reward those that came to the celebration, Buddha named a year after each of the animals in the order they arrived: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

According to Chinese astrology, each of these animals has certain characteristics. They believe people born each year will share the traits of the animal their birth year falls under.

When you were born, was it the year of the dragon? The ox? The monkey? The pig? Find out by looking up your Chinese zodiac.

2011 will be the Year of the Rabbit. Some people say those born in the Year of the Rabbit are talented and ambitious.

Rabbits may be quiet, calm and kind. They rarely lose their tempers. People tend to trust and admire rabbits. They may be good in business and financially lucky.

Other rabbits were born in the following years: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987 and 1999.


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    • That’s really AWESOME, Heathercloud! It’s FUN to learn about the Chinese New Year, isn’t it? We really appreciate your comment and thank you for sharing a little about yourself and your family today! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why is 2011 the Year of the Rabbit?
  • How is the Chinese New Year celebrated?
  • Why do the Chinese name their years after animals?

Wonder Gallery

Wonder #123- Rabbit Static ImageVimeo Video

Try It Out

Get your home ready for the Chinese New Year by decorating with colorful homemade paper lanterns.

When you’re finished, you can even make felt fortune cookies stuffed with good fortune for any visitors that stop by to celebrate.


Still Wondering

Explore the discipline and beauty of Chinese brush painting with this creative Chinese Calligraphy lesson from ArtsEdge. To learn more about the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, visit EDSITEment’s fun Animals of the Chinese Zodiac resource.


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