The Chinese New Year was celebrated with our Key Stage 3 pupils on Monday Morning. Bi Xiaojun (Esther) explained to the pupils the cultural background to the Chinese New Year festival and Liu Shi Hai  gave some martial arts demonstrations to add some drama to the occasion. It was a most informative and enjoyable assembly.

The text below was written by Xiaojun (Esther) which explains the festival further.


The Chinese New Year is the most important festival in China, and traditionally observed by the Chinese in the country. Today, overseas Chinese have brought it to different parts of the world.

It is believed, in Chinese culture, that spring is the season of the beginning as it is the time when the trees and grass start to grow, the flowers bloom, and it therefore should be the first season of the year. So the Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival.

As is known to many, different animals represent Chinese years. This tradition can be traced back more than 2,000 years, when people had no idea how old they were, because they didn’t know which year they were born into, and how many years had passed. The legendary Jade Emperor decided to make use of animals to mark different years. After a competitive race, 12 animals were chosen. They are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Roosters, Dog and Pig, one followed by another. When the 12 animals are used up, the next round began again starting with Rat. 2014 was the year of Horse, this year is the year of Goat.

The Chinese word for year is “Nian”, named after a mean and horrible beast, who would attack people in the village the last day of a year. Almost all the traditions related to Chinese New Year celebration is based on how people fight against the beast. People noticed that the beast, like many wild animals, was afraid of fire. Red, the color of fire is seen everywhere on the festival. Red rhyming couplets are pasted on door frames, red paper cuttings on windows. Children wear new clothes (mostly red) as a symbol of a new year. The most festive moment is the midnight of the New Year’s Eve, when people all over the country have fire crackers at same time. It’s not hard to imagine how loud it could be, in fact it is normally so deafening that people would not be able to hear each other even though when they talk face to face. Fire crackers are introduced to the celebration, because the beast was scared of the loud noise. When girls fancy the new clothes for the new year, the boys are more keen on the fire crackers. One more thing that children are excited about is the money they get from the parents or other older family members. This is dated back to the time when people tried every means to drive away the evil monster “Nian”. Legend goes that once an old wise man put some money under the pillow of the children on the New Year’s Eve. When midnight came, the money sparkled with light, which kept the children safe from the monster. From then on, people would give children money, usually wrapped up in the red envelope, wishing them a safe and happy new year.

In Chinese culture, food is considered the most important thing, each traditional festival is normally accompanied with a certain kind of special food. Dumpling (jiaozi) is specifically for the Spring Festival.

China didn’t use to have 24 hours in one day. Instead, there were only 12 hours, making 2 hours one traditional Chinese hour. The time round midnight, 23:00—1:00 is the hour “Zi”. Midnight of the New Year’s Eve is the time when people cross over from the old year to the new, in Chinese “jiao”. Hence the food is named “jiaozi”. Fish is often served on the dinner table on the festival. As fish (yu) in Chinese is pronounced the same as “surplus”, having fish implies that when one year is over, we will not only manage to make the ends meet, but also have something left, in other word having more than just enough.

The Chinese New Year’s Day changes every year. It can be in January or February. It is so because the days of traditional festivals are in accordance with the Chinese traditional calendar, lunar calendar which is based on the observation of the moon. The beginning of a month is when we see a new moon, while the middle of the month is when the moon is round. Chinese New Year lasts 16 days, the last two days are Lantern Festival when people have lion dancing or dragon dancing to celebrate the first full moon in a year. The lively performances not only highlight, but also end the long Spring Festival.