The Chinese New Year is based on the lunisolar calendar, and so it varies on an annual basis on the Gregorian calendar. This year the Chinese New Year begins on the 25th of January 2020. The years on the Chinese calendar are divided into12-year cycles, which means that the next Year of the Rat will occur in 12 years’ time. There are twelve animal signs in the Chinese zodiac calendar and the rat is the first one in it, while the pig, the sign for 2019, was the twelfth.
The rat is regarded as a symbol of fertility, adaptability, intelligence and wealth. The myth is that the Jade Emperor had a race of thirteen animals and the rat sat on an ox and near the end of the race, jumped off the ox and made a dash to the finishing line, beating all the others. The pig had stopped for a snack and a snooze, so it came last, while the cat drowned, hence there are twelve animal signs in the Chinese calendar.
The celebrations of the Chinese New Year last for two weeks and will end with the Lantern Festival on the 8th of February. It is also known as the Spring Festival. Homes are cleaned thoroughly and red lanterns and other decorations in red put up because the red color is supposed to bring good fortune. On the New Year’s Eve a family dinner is held, mostly of dumplings and fish, and children are given money in red envelopes. After midnight there are fireworks, to banish evil. Certain superstitions are attached to the start of the Chinese New Year. One the first day people are supposed to avoid doing laundry, cleaning the floor or using scissors, as these activities are supposed to bring all sorts of bad luck for the rest of the year.
The largest mass migration takes place during this period, and this year three billion trips are expected during the Chinese New Year for family reunion. The economy comes to a standstill during this period. The fast expanding network of bullet trains in China has made travel easier and faster for the Chinese on their extensive mainland. Outside China, the New Year is celebrated with vigor in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand. In fact according to the China Travel Guide, one-sixth of the world’s population celebrates the Chinese New Year.