The Chinese New Year is fast approaching, and millions of people around the world are getting ready to celebrate.
Chinese New Year, commonly referred to as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is celebrated on a different date every year but always falls in January or February.
Each year is also assigned one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, which reflect on the people born within those corresponding years. But what do they mean?
Here is everything you need to know about it.
How is Chinese New Year celebrated?
In 2023, Chinese New Year falls on Sunday 22 January, although celebrations will typically last 16 days, starting from Chinese New Year’s Eve (21 January) until 5 February.
The first week of that 16-day period is a national holiday in China, making it a special time when families travel from across the country and the world to spend time together.
Before celebrations begin, people deep clean their homes as on the day itself it is back luck to sweep or clean in case you sweep the good luck for the year ahead out of your home.
People come together to celebrate with food and parties - noodle soup is a tradition as the noodles are thought to bring luck.
Parades and performances are usually held too, including beautifully decorated dragons, people in traditional costumes and fireworks. The colourful lights and bang of fireworks are supposed to ward off evil spirits.
Why is it different from our own New Year?
The Chinese New Year falls later than our New Year because it follows the lunar calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar most commonly used in the UK, which is based on tracking the Sun.
The Lunar calendar celebrates its first new day when a new moon appears, and is more than 5,000 years old.
How is Chinese New Year celebrated in the UK?
The Chinese New Year will be celebrated across the UK, with traditional celebrations including lion dances, fireworks and community events.
Traditions include giving red envelopes of money and visiting family and friends for New Year dinner.
What is the Chinese zodiac?
Each year on the Chinese calendar is linked to one of 12 zodiac animals, each with their own specific characteristics.
This is similar to how each month of the Gregorian calendar is often linked to a zodiac in other countries.
The twelve animals are:
The animals are assigned in cycles of twelve years, so 2022 was the Year of the Tiger, and so was 2010, 1998, and so on.
What are the origins of the Chinese zodiac?
The cycle is based on an old folk tale called the Great Race, in which all twelve animals take part in a race to reach the Jade Emperor. The order they completed the race is the order in which the years are named.
The Rat won out against the bigger animals by catching a ride on the back of the ox and then jumping off its back at the last minute.
This means the Ox, who had been due to win the race, had to settle for second place and the others fill in the places behind, with the Pig coming last.
2023 is the Year of the Rabit, known to be king of all beasts in China . The Year of the Tiger previously fell in 2011, 1987, 1975, 1963, and so on.
Next year, it will be the Year of the Dragon, then the Snake.
What do the animals mean?
In Chinese astrology, the animal signs assigned by year represent how others perceive you or how you present yourself.
That is, depending on the animal assigned to the year in which you were born, your personality traits are believed to be different.
But it is a common misconception that the animals assigned by year are the only signs - in fact, there are also animal signs assigned by month (called "inner animals"), by day (called "true animals") and hours (called "secret animals").
One should also be wary of being quick to celebrate when it is one of “your” years - according to Chinese astrology, the year you are born is supposed to be the unluckiest for you, so people born in previous Rabbit years may face bad luck in 2023
Here is what each of the signs mean:
Rat - People who were born in the Year of the Rat are said to be quick-witted, resourceful, and smart but lack courage. Due to their work ethic, however, they are thought to be wealthy and prosperous. Lucky colours: blue, gold, green.
Ox - An Ox is said to have an honest personality. People born in the Year of the Ox are known for being diligent, dependable, strong, and determined, though find it difficult to communicate. Lucky colours: white, yellow, green.
Tiger - People born in the Year of the Tiger are brave, competitive, unpredictable, and confident. Confident, charming and well liked they sometimes possess a stubborn personality too. Lucky colours: blue, grey, orange.
Rabbit - Rabbits tend to be of a more gentle nature. Quiet, elegant, kind, and patient, rabbits have many positive characteristics but can also be known to be superficial. Lucky colours: pink, red, purple, blue.
Dragon - Hot-headed with a sharp tongue, people born in the Year of the Dragon are also said to be confident and intelligent, and natural leaders. Lucky colours: gold, silver, grey.
Snake - Intelligent and wise, goal-oriented and hate to fail, people born in the Year of the Snake are supposed to be the most intuitive and a symbol of wisdom. Lucky colours: black, red, yellow.
Horse - People born in the Year of the Horse are said to be active, animated and energetic. A lover of mass gatherings - sports events, live concerts, parties - horses crave the spotlight. Lucky colours: green, yellow.
Goat - A thoughtful animal,people born in the Year of the Goat are generally thought of as being gentle, mild-mannered, shy, sympathetic and incredibly kind-hearted. Creative and tough under the surface. Lucky colours: brown, red, purple.
Monkey - Monkeys are sharp, smart but also have a mischievous side to their personality. Thought to be masters of practical jokes, due to their playful nature, they are also fast learners and prefer urban life to a rural one. Lucky colours: white, blue, gold.
Rooster - Always active, amusing, and popular within a crowd, roosters are talkative, outspoken, frank, honest, and loyal. Roosters expect to be listened to and their achievement acknowledged. Lucky colours: gold, brown, yellow.
Dog - Loyalty and honesty are two personality traits of those people born in the Year of the Dog. Kind, cautious, and prudent though communication is where they fall down, leading to others thinking they have a stubborn personality. Lucky colours: green, red, purple.
Pig - Pigs are diligent, compassionate, and generous. One of their strengths is their ability to concentrate and forge ahead to achieve their goals, though they are easily fooled. Lucky colours: yellow, grey, brown, gold.