Chinese New Year is the grandest and most important festival in China, spanning seven days of celebration.
Unlike the universal New Year observed on 1 January, Chinese New Year never takes place on a fixed date - instead it occurs according to the Chinese lunar calendar.
When is Chinese New Year?
This year, Chinese New Year officially begins on Saturday 25 January 2020, marking the beginning of the Year of the Rat.
It is commonly referred to as 'Spring Festival', or 'Lunar New Year', because it is based on the lunisolar Chinese calendar.
How long do Chinese New Year celebrations last?
While the legal holiday is seven days long, from the Lunar New Year’s Eve to the sixth day of the first lunar month, celebrations often last up to 10 days or more, running until the 15th day of the first lunar month - known as the Lantern Festival (5 to 8 Feb).
What is the Chinese zodiac?
Each calendar year has a different Chinese zodiac associated with it, which runs in a repeating cycle of 12 animal signs.
The zodiac animals each represent different attributes and it is believed that people born in a given year will adopt the personality traits and characteristics associated with that year's animal.
Some of the 12 animals were selected as they closely relate to the lives of ancient Chinese people. These include domestic animals like an ox, goat, rooster and pig. Others were chosen because they have lucky meanings and are well loved, including a tiger and a dragon.
2020 is the Year of the Rat, with the animal seen as a sign of wealth and surplus in Chinese culture (Photo: Shutterstock)
The Year of the Rat
2020 marks the Year of the Rat, with the animal seen as a sign of wealth and surplus in Chinese culture.
The rat is associated with the Earthly Branch in Chinese astrology, and the midnight hours. In terms of yin and yang, it is considered ‘yang’ and represents the beginning of a new day.
Recent years of the rat include 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008 and this year, 2020.
People born in the year of the rat are considered to be clever, quick thinking and successful, although they are content with living a quiet and peaceful life. They enjoy saving and collecting, with little financial hardship, and live organised lives, without seeking praise or recognition.
People born in this year are also instinctive, alert and adaptable, although they have tendencies to be timid and stubborn.
The 12 zodiac animals
The zodiac system has existed in Chinese culture for more than 2,000 years and, over time, have become more ingrained in daily life, having meanings and characteristics assigned to each animal.
Listed are the 12 different zodiac animals, their recent years and associated traits:
Traits: quick-witted, resourceful, versatile, kind
Recent years: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
Traits: diligent, dependable, strong, determined
Recent years: 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
Traits: brave, confident, competitive
Recent years: 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
Traits: quiet, elegant, kind, responsible
Recent years: 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
Traits: confident, intelligent, enthusiastic
Recent years: 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
Traits: enigmatic, intelligent, wise
Recent years: 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Traits: animated, active, energetic
Recent years: 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Traits: calm, gentle, sympathetic
Recent years: 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
Traits: sharp, smart, curiosity
Recent years: 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Traits: observant, hardworking, courageous
Recent years: 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
Traits: lovely, honest, prudent
Recent years: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
Traits: compassionate, generous, diligent
Recent years: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031