All across mainland China and the peripheries of Southeast Asia, and from Australia to London to San Diego, families the world over are kicking off their New Year's celebrations today.
Today, February 8th, marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year, saying goodbye to the Year of the Goat and ushering in the highly auspicious Year of the Monkey for 2016.
The New Year celebrations will carry on until the 14th or 15th of February (depending on where the adherents are living). For the entire week, people in China will be on vacation from work.
How the Chinese Lunar New Year Is Observed
Like seasonal holidays throughout the year in any other culture, the Chinese New Year originally played a significant role in managing the yearly workflow of rural farmers. We can see this in the U.S. with the traditional "summer break" from public schools coinciding with the time of year that children needed to be home as extra farmhands, especially in the South.
The Chinese New Year was once even more critical for rural families, allowing farmers to return to their fields to prepare for the fresh year of farming ahead. Even though 55% of Chinese citizens now live in urban areas, it's estimated that more than 100 million people return to their farms when the Lunar New Year rolls around.
There are an array of "don'ts" associated with the beginning of the Lunar New Year, most of them symbolic representations of avoiding bad habits and bringing good fortune throughout the year. A few examples include:
- Not eating humble dishes like porridge, which is seen as setting a bad precedent for the rest of the year;
- Not using or giving any sharp objects like knives or needles, which are signs of a painful year ahead;
- Not sweeping after the New Year has begun, as this is symbolic of sweeping away one's wealth and good fortune (for this reason, all sweeping and tidying is done on New Year's Eve);
- Not wearing black or white, which are traditional colors for mourning.
Moreover, trading on the various markets and business in general comes to a halt in China and other pockets around the world. At the same time, however, during the week of celebration, millions upon millions of families on holiday spend a great deal of money, especially abroad. Many centralized business districts in the region outlying China like Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan plan special Lunar New Year deals and promotions in order to serve (and attract) the huge influx of Chinese tourists coming during the holiday week.
Aspects of the Year of the Monkey
People who are born under the sign of the Monkey (1908, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, and 2004) are believed to be adaptable, bright, charming, curious, enthusiastic, friendly, innovative, lively, mischievous, quick-witted, self-assured, smart, sociable, and versatile. Further, each instance of the Year of the Monkey (and every Lunar sign, in fact) is associated with a rotating set of elements: Earth, Fire, Gold, Water, Wood. This year is for the Fire Monkey. Essentially, people with the Fire Monkey sign are ambitious and adventurous individuals.
Good Luck Omens for Those Born Under Sign of the Monkey
- Lucky numbers: 1, 7, 8, and 9, as well as numbers containing them (like 19, 97, etc.)
- Lucky days: the 14th and 28th day of any Chinese Lunar calendar month
- Lucky colors: white, blue, gold
- Lucky flowers: chrysanthemum, crape-myrtle
- Lucky directions: north, northwest, west
- Lucky months: Chinese Lunar months 8 (September) and 12 (January)