Chinese New Year 2022: key lunar dates, what animal it is - and how do you say ‘Happy New Year’ in Chinese?

While Chinese New Year may have passed, the celebrations are still continuing with China set to celebrate its equivalent of Valentine’s Day

Chinese New Year 2022 may have passed, but the festival around it is still continuing.

Lasting for more than two weeks, the celebrations mark the start of the new lunar year and are China’s equivalent of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s Day all in one.

So what is still left to celebrate of Chinese New Year 202 - and what animal of the Chinese Zodiac is the new year?

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 got underway on Tuesday (1 February).

While we celebrated the solar new year almost a month ago, the lunar year has only just ended.

It ran between 12 February 2021 and Monday 31 January 2022.

The new lunar year will now run until Sunday 22 January 2023.

(graphic: Mark Hall/NationalWorld)

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.

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

What animal will Chinese New Year 2022 be?

Every new year introduces another animal from the Chinese zodiac and its attributes.

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 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
  • Pig

2022 will be the year of the tiger.

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

These include:

  • 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?

There are four main elements of Chinese 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 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 but the centre of festivities is in London, which hosts one of the largest parties outside of China itself.

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.

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 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”

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