January is never the easiest month, what with its gloomy, wintery weather and lack of action when compared to December.
But there is one big event we can all look forward to. Chinese New Year is just around the corner, and tends to be a festival of fireworks, good food and amazing processions.
It is basically the equivalent of New Year’s Day, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day all rolled into one massive celebration spanning for more than two weeks. Based on traditions dating back thousands of year, such as the Chinese zodiac - a system many people in Asia believe will determine their attributes and fortunes - the modern-day version of Chinese New Year has become an internationally celebrated event.
Indeed, London is home to one of the largest annual celebrations outside of Asia. But Chinese communities across the UK will be hosting their own events and parties, so be sure to keep an eye out for local notices if you’d like to take part.
So, when is Chinese New Year 2023 - and what events can you expect to take place in the UK? Here’s everything you need to know.
When is Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year 2023 is still several weeks away. It usually falls between three to four weeks after the solar new year (i.e. 1 January) because the lunar year works in a slightly different way to our calendars.
The current lunar year has been running since Monday 31 January 2022 and will finish on Saturday 21 January 2023. It means the next lunar year (i.e. Chinese New Year) will begin on Sunday 22 January 2023.
The next lunar year will then run until Friday 9 February 2024, meaning Chinese New Year 2024 will be held on Saturday 10 February 2024.
While solar calendars are in popular and legal usage across much of the world, many people in China and South East Asia follow the more traditional lunar calendar. Whereas solar calendars are based on the earth’s passage around the sun, lunar ones base their timings off the different phases of the moon.
It means months tend to be either 29 or 30 days in length, and years are between 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar calendar. While this might seem like a very foreign concept, most cultures around the world have used lunar calendars at some point in their history.
Even the Gregorian calendar, which is now in common usage after its introduction in Europe almost 450 years ago, has its origins in the lunar cycle.
What animal will Chinese New Year 2022 be?
Every new year introduces another animal from the Chinese zodiac and its attributes. Currently, we are in the year of the tiger.
This system is believed to have been installed in a period during which animal worship was widely practiced in China. The zodiac system has been going for an estimated 2,000 years and remains central to Chinese culture.
Many people in China use the zodiac to determine their fortune for the year and even who they should marry. There are 12 animals in all:
2023 will be the year of the rabbit. It means people born this year will share the rabbit’s characteristics. These include:
- Kind and reasonable
- Quietly confident and resilient
- Strong attention to detail
How is Chinese New Year marked?
There are four main elements of Chinese New Year festivities:
- Little Year: takes place one week before Chinese New Year (Sunday 15 January 2023) and is a day of memorial and prayer
- New Year’s Eve: a day of reunions and gift-giving
- Spring Festival (11 days long): a festival of family activities, prayers and feasting
- Lantern Festival (5 days long): celebrates family reunions and society, and also includes the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day. Chinese people mark the event by making lanterns and lighting them
Each day during this period involves different activities and sees different food and drink items consumed. For example, on the first day of Chinese New Year, firecrackers are set off and people look at their fortunes for the year ahead.
Typical food items across all of these events include spring rolls, dumplings, noodles, steamed fish or chicken and rice cakes.
Chinese New Year is also marked all over the world. Celebrations take place in towns and cities across the UK, with the centre of festivities occuring in London where one of the largest parties outside of China itself happens annually.
In Chinatown and Trafalgar Square, you can catch parades featuring traditional Chinese lions and tigers, acrobatic shows, speeches, traditional food and drink as well as firecrackers. The event was scaled down during the Covid-19 pandemic, but 2023’s edition looks set to see a return to normality.
A parade containing more than 50 colourful floats and acts will make its way through the capital on the big day itself, while there will be several stages set up throughout the West End. To find out more about what’s happening for Chinese New Year 2023 in London, visit the VisitLondon.com tourist website.
Elsewhere in the UK, there are several large events taking place to mark the special occasion. In Edinburgh, an official Chinese New Year concert will be taking place, while in Manchester, a dragon parade is going to wind its way through the city centre.
How to say ‘Happy New Year’ in Chinese
There are two main languages in China - Mandarin (largely spoken on the mainland) and Cantonese (mostly spoken in and around Hong Kong). Both languages use three different phrases for wishing someone a happy new year. These are:
- ‘Xīnnián hǎo’ which directly translates as ‘New Year goodness’
Mandarin: 新年好 or “sshin-nyen haoww”
Cantonese: 新年好 or “sen-nin haow”
- ‘Gōngxǐ fācái’ which means ‘happiness and prosperity’ in English
Mandarin: 恭喜发财 or “gong-sshee faa-tseye”
Cantonese: 恭喜發財 or “gong-hey faa-chwhy”
- ‘Bùbù gāoshēng’ which translates into English as ‘on the up and up’
Mandarin: 步步高升 or “boo-boo gaoww-shnng”
Cantonese: 步步高陞 or “boh-boh goh-sshi”