When is Chinese New Year 2022? Date, which Zodiac animal is it this year - and food and activities explained

With its food, acrobatic parades and fireworks, Chinese New Year is a fantastic time to sample China’s culture

Chinese New Year is kicking off in just a few weeks time (image: Shutterstock)

Many of us were done out of a proper New Year’s party this year due to the Omicron Covid variant.

But with Plan B winter coronavirus restrictions now set to be scrapped in England and rules relaxing in Scotland, much of the UK is set to find it easier to socialise once more.

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And just in time for us to have another crack at a proper New Year’s celebration too, as Chinese New Year is only a matter of days away.

The major event is marked not just in China and South East Asia more generally, but across the globe - including in London.

Marking the beginning of another lunar year, it is essentially the Chinese equivalent of Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s Day wrapped up in a festival that lasts for more than two weeks.

So what date will Chinese New Year 2022 fall on, what animal will this year be - and what activities traditionally take place during the celebration?

Here’s what you need to know.

Chinatown and Trafalgar Square in London are usually at the centre of the UK’s Chinese New Year celebrations (image: AFP/Getty Images)

When is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year 2022 will take place on Tuesday 1 February.

The previous lunar year has been running since 12 February 2021 and draws to a close on Monday 31 January 2022.

Timings differ from when we mark the new year because China traditionally follows the lunar calendar, whereas we follow a solar one.

Solar calendars are based on the earth’s passage around the sun and are in common and legal usage around the world.

(graphic: Mark Hall/NationalWorld)

The lunar calendar bases its timings off the different phases of the moon.

It means months tend to be either 29 or 30 days in length, while years are between 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar calendar.

While this calendar might seem a 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.

Parades celebrating Chinese culture often take place around the world during Chinese New Year (image: Getty Images)

What animal will it be?

Every new year brings with it an animal from the Chinese zodiac and its attributes.

This system is believed to have been installed during a period in which animal worship was practiced in China.

It’s been going for 2,000 years and remains central to Chinese culture, with people using it to determine their fortune for the year and even who they should marry.

It is unclear what scale of celebrations will be able to take place this year because of Covid (image: AFP/Getty Images)

There are 12 animals in all: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

2022 will be the year of the tiger.

It means people born this year will share the tiger’s characteristics.

These are:

  • Vigor and ambition
  • Daring and courage
  • Enthusiasm and generosity
  • Self-confidence 
  • A sense of justice and a commitment to help others for the greater good

How is Chinese New Year marked?

In China, there are four main elements of New Year festivities:

  • Little Year: takes place one week before Chinese New Year 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.

Chinese lanterns are put up during the Lantern Festival part of their New Year celebrations (image: AFP/Getty Images)

Typical food items 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 but the centre of festivities is in Chinatown in London’s West End, where you can see parades featuring traditional Chinese lions and tigers.

Trafalgar Square also tends to host a celebration involving a screen show, speeches, traditional food and drink as well as firecrackers.

How to say happy new year in Chinese

There are two major languages in China, Mandarin (largely spoken on the mainland) and Cantonese (mostly spoken in 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”

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