Tips&TricksUnearthing traditions of the Chinese New Year: From the Year of the Wooden Dragon to the significance of red envelopes

Unearthing traditions of the Chinese New Year: From the Year of the Wooden Dragon to the significance of red envelopes

Celebrating New Year's festivities in China.
Celebrating New Year's festivities in China.
Images source: © Adobe Stock | Mirador
6:07 AM EST, February 10, 2024

The Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, is an integral event in the Chinese calendar. Celebrations extend beyond China to Taiwan, North Korea, Tibet, and Vietnam. The holiday swings between January 21 and February 20 and usually lasts approximately 15 days before ending with the Lantern Festival.

The current Chinese New Year celebrates the Year of the Wooden Dragon. Worth mentioning is that this year does not last for 365 or 366 days. Instead, it aligns with the lunar calendar, with the start date varying. In 2024, it began on February 10 and will conclude on January 28, 2025.

What does the Year of the Wooden Dragon symbolize?

The dragon is the fifth sign of the zodiac in the Chinese horoscope. In Chinese astrology, specific animals are assigned to specific years. Thus, people born under the sign of the dragon are those born in the years 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, 2036, 2048, and so forth. Each year also corresponds to a different element. The current year revolves around the Wooden Dragon. Last year, 2023, it was the Water Rabbit, and the year before, 2022, it was the Water Tiger.

The Wooden Dragon year considers number nine as the lucky number. If you're seeking good luck, it could be beneficial to surround yourself with things associated with this number. In Chinese culture, nine is deemed auspicious. Besides, even though the focus of the celebration is the Wooden Dragon, the element of the year is fire, signaling a promising and prosperous year for everyone.

What is the significance of giving red envelopes?

This tradition holds special meaning. Giving a red envelope, or hong bao, is symbolic of happiness, wealth, and business success. According to beliefs, red envelopes also ward off evil spirits. So, what should they contain, and who are they for?

A hong bao is an offering of gratitude and affection. Inside the envelope, there is money. The amounts can vary, depending on the giver's financial situation and their relationship with the recipient. However, the amount of money mustn't be an odd number. Hong baos are given to family members, friends, and coworkers. Traditionally, they should be presented during the family dinner on New Year's Eve.

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