Gōng xǐ fā cái, Happy New Year! 2018 welcomes the Year of the Dog, the eleventh animal of the zodiac, which symbolises loyalty and honesty. Those who are born in the year of the dog are considered to be friendly, loyal and smart and have a strong sense of responsibility. The Chinese New Year celebrations run from 8th February to 2nd March with three sections; Little Year, Spring Festival and Lantern Festival, and with our 2018 and 2019 world cruises visiting Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong here are top highlights of the Chinese New Year.


1.       Fireworks and firecrackers

Legend has it that on every New Year’s Eve in China a monster named Nian would try and steal people away from their villages in the night, so they would hide in their homes. One day a young boy set off firecrackers and frightened the monster so much that he never came back. The next day, to celebrate, the locals all set off fireworks and firecrackers and to this day they are believed to ward off evil spirits.

China sets off the most fireworks in the world during the nights of New Year, and in Hong Kong, the display over Victoria Harbour goes on for 25 minutes with lasers and lights from buildings creating one of the best displays on earth. Music is played while the local skyscrapers feature light shows choreographed to the theme for that year and with the fireworks produced to have louder detonations than normal to scare Nian away, be prepared for a night to remember. Check out the Hong Kong Travellers top tips for viewing the 2018 Chinese New Year Fireworks.  


2.      Red envelopes

As with fireworks, lucky red envelopes are also shrouded in myths and fairy tales. Many years ago a demon called Sui would visit children on New Year’s Eve night and pat them on the head. As his touch was evil the children would develop a fever. One year a couple gave their child some coins to play with and when he fell asleep they placed the coins on a red piece of paper next to his pillow. At midnight Sui came in to visit the child and suddenly saw the coins flashing in the dark and it frightened him off. The next day their neighbours heard about this revelation, so they too gave their children money wrapped in red paper to ward off Sui.

While traditionally we think of the red envelopes being given to children, nowadays envelopes are gifted to many different people from children and family to colleagues and friends. Only clean and crisp notes can be placed into the red envelope to represent freshness as you enter the new year. Banks often experience a rush before New Year where people wish to withdraw clean notes. If you would like to give an envelope you must ensure that the amounts never include the number ‘4’ as it is unlucky, whereas ‘8’ is exceedingly lucky!


3.       Food


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As Chinese New Year revolves around family, what better way to keep a family happy than food! New Year’s Eve or reunion dinner is the most important meal during the New Year period. Families are expected to come together and spaces are even left at the table for those who cannot be there, or have passed away.

During the New Year celebrations, each item of food is specifically chosen for its symbolism. Spring rolls are a staple of most tables during New Year and unlike the fried variety we are used to here in the UK you can find options that are steamed and baked. Dumplings are the northern Chinese equivalent of spring rolls and they are shrouded in good luck should you take the time to fill and wrap the dumplings yourself before eating them. Whole chickens are also a popular dish as they represent the coming together of family and the whole family united.

As with much of China’s cuisine, noodles are a staple. Households hold little competitions to see who can make the longest noodle, as they represent long life and it is seen as bad luck to cut them so they are stretched and worked until they naturally break and separate.


4.       Fung Shui

While here in the UK some still observe the tradition of opening a door at midnight to let out the old year and welcome the new, the Chinese prepare their whole house for the new year. Houses are scrubbed from top to bottom to ensure that the house’s inhabitants enter the new year clean without any of the dirt from the previous year, this extends completely throughout the house and the garden. Children are encouraged to get rid of any broken toys and old clothes and to then give thanks for all that they have received that year and for what they may receive in the new year. However, once the new year arrives, they will not dust or clean in fear that they will tidy away the good luck which is present on New Year’s day.  

While the Year of the Dog can be lucky for some zodiac symbols it can be unlucky for others, so to avoid any conflict and bad luck Chinese residents will assess the fung shui of their homes and offices to ensure that only positive energy is received in the new year.


5.       Dragons

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Dragons are legendary animals for most countries across the world, but none are celebrated quite like the Chinese during the new year. Chinese dragons are different to European dragons in the sense that they are not destroyed by a valiant hero, but are instead linked to the skies, and their dancing in the heavens creates rain for the crops. During New Year celebrations dragons can often be seen dancing through parades and chasing after a pearl in search of wisdom and knowledge.

Dragons are exceedingly lucky and the amount of luck onlookers can receive varies on the size of the dragon, how long it dances for and whether you are lucky enough to receive a kiss.


Your outlook for those born in the Year of the Dog:

Years: 2017-18, 2006-07, 1994-95, 1982-83, 1970-71, 1958-59, 1946-47, 1934-35, 1922-23.

Energy: Yang

Lucky flowers: Rose, Oncidium

Lucky numbers: 3, 4, 9

Lucky colours: Green, red, purple

Element: Earth

Lucky directions: East, west