Chinese New Year 2024 – otherwise known as the Spring Festival (chūnjié, 春节)  or Lunar New Year – marks the beginning of a Year of the Dragon in the Chinese Zodiac. 

For over a billion people, the Lunar New Year is a massive event. Although it’s often referred to as “Chinese New Year”, the festival is celebrated in Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, and in communities around the world. 

In China , the week starting from the Lunar New Year (on February 10th, though this varies every year following the lunar cycle) is a national public holiday. 

People from all over China (and far beyond) travel home to spend time with loved ones. They indulge in fun, traditions, and customs. 

But it’s all done in celebration and recognition of a transition in the lunar cycle. It’s time to wish those closest to you luck, prosperity, and good things in the year to come. In this case, the Year of the Dragon: 

 

What is the Year of the Dragon? 

The Year of the Dragon (lóng, ) is named after one of twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac. The dragon is the only zodiac “animal” that is mythical. The others are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, snake, horse, sheep or goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar or pig. 

This “earthly branch” cycle repeats every twelve years. Thus, the years 2012, 2000, and 1988 were also Years of the Dragon. For those who follow the tradition, this will potentially affect the year and how we should live our lives to achieve prosperity in it. 

For example, 2023 was the Year of the Rabbit. According to Chinese zodiac tradition, this may have been a good time to keep your head down and get on with things. It’s believed to be a relatively unpredictable time, making this a good strategy. 

In Chinese culture, the Dragon is associated with: 

  • Good fortune and success 
  • Strength and power 
  • Control of the weather and water 

Each animal year also has an associated element in the Chinese zodiac (wood, fire, earth, metal, or water). This is the stem-branch system and results in a cycle that takes sixty years (twelve animals times five elements). 

For 2024, the element is wood, so 2024 is strictly the Year of the Wood Dragon. It’s been suggested that this may be a good time to focus on being independent and indulging our curiosity in a search for knowledge or wisdom. It may also be a time of growth. 

 

Your horoscope and the significance of the zodiac 

For those who believe in the tradition, being born in a certain year also means you are more likely to exhibit certain traits. 

Each of the animals in the zodiac has their own particular associated qualities. None of them are “bad”, but a Year of the Dragon is seen as a particularly beneficial year to be born in. The qualities of a Dragon are often thought to include: 

  • Leadership skills and confidence 
  • Having a unique or magnetic personality 
  • Highly energetic 
  • Charismatic or captivating 

Of course, there is also the wood element to consider. This element is associated with good ethics and a sense of duty, which may give the “Wood Dragons” born this year a little more of an introspective bent. 

Many people in East Asia (and in communities that follow the Chinese zodiac worldwide) take this extremely seriously. In recent years, people may even wait to have a baby until a Dragon Year, leading to hospital capacity problems in some areas! 

 

Important dates and traditions of Chinese New Year 

The Chinese or Lunar New Year festival starts on the first day after the new moon appears every year. This happens somewhere between February 9th and March 10th. In 2024, Chinese New Year’s Day will be February 10th. 

The celebration itself starts the day before (February 9th this year) and runs for fifteen days culminating in the special Lantern Festival or yuán xiāo jié, 元宵节 (on February 24th this year) 

It’s worth reiterating how many millions of people in different cultures and parts of the world celebrate the Lunar New Year. There’s a wide variety of traditions. But in many places, you might expect to find customs and activities such as: 

1) Family gatherings and reunions 

For most people, the Lunar New Year Festival is a time for family. Most families will get together for a reunion meal – sometimes several for the biggest families! 

Various symbolic (and very tasty) dishes are usually served. For example, the so-called “Money-Bag Dumplings” and sweet rice cakes called nián gāo. 

There is a lot of wishing everyone good things for the year ahead – health and prosperity, a happy family and society, and much more besides. 

2) Red (envelopes and everywhere) 

Red is an auspicious colour in Chinese symbology. It’s perceived as lucky. Thus, you’ll see a lot of red at most Lunar New Year festivities. 

One famous tradition is the giving of gifts (often money) in red envelopes (hóng bāo) or packages. Many people do this, but it’s primarily a thing done by married adults for older or younger people. 

3) Dragon dances 

Dragon dances, lion dances, and other parades are a traditional part of festival celebrations. They’re well worth taking the time to attend! 

4) Fireworks 

Fireworks are a staple of Lunar New Year celebrations almost everywhere they are held. So much so that the Chinese authorities occasionally put firework bans in place citing pollution and health and safety dangers over the New Year! 

The tradition is a very old one, aimed at scaring away evil spirits. But it’s also a lot of fun and eye-catching for everyone involved. 

5) The Lantern Festival 

The majority of the Lunar New Year festival is given over to celebrating family and community, but the Lantern Festival is about getting out onto the streets to socialise. 

The date of the Lantern Festival is always chosen to mark the first full moon of the new lunar year. Many people will hang out red lanterns or light red candles and go out to party. 

Traditionally, one eats a kind of sticky rice ball with a peanut butter or sesame filling known as tāng yuán. They’re delicious and incredibly popular. 

 

Predictions and fortune 

After the festival is over, those who follow the Chinese Zodiac believe the fact it is a Year of the Dragon will have an impact on events both large and small. 

For example, 2024 has been called the “year of elections”. More people than ever before (in over 64 countries) will go to the polls to vote for their leaders. A Year of the Dragon may mean big, decisive election victories. It may also mean those who lose are resilient enough to get past it. 

Each zodiac animal also has its “allies” and “enemies”. They are often thought to struggle or do well in the associated year. This means those born in the years of the Monkey and the Rat may have good years this year, while those born in the Year of the Goat may struggle. 

How the year is going to play out may be noticeable quite early. If the weather is bad at the festival, 2024 might be a little… unpredictable.  

 

Fashion and cultural celebration 

Gift-giving is a traditional part of Chinese New Year. There is also a predilection for certain fashions – primarily red clothing. 

The most common Chinese New Year gifts are the aforementioned red envelopes. But in addition to other traditional gifts like oranges and flowers, many major brands are hoping to encourage people to give a little bigger this year. 

For instance, Nike is celebrating Lunar New Year 2024 by releasing the “Chinese New Year” Air Force 1 Low. This trainer is covered in gold silk fabric (gold is another “lucky” colour) with silver dragons depicted on it. 

Fashion labels including Burberry, Boss, Alexander McQueen, and many others are all launching Lunar New Year fashion collections too.

 

Chinese New Year 2024 is set to be hugely significant 

With the Year of the Dragon being such an auspicious one in the Chinese zodiac, Chinese New Year 2024 is set to be a big one. The Year of the Dragon is traditionally understood to be one of positive energy – and a great year to be born in! 

So, why not get out there? There’s lots to do and see! 

Whether you’re in East Asia or simply near a city with a thriving Chinatown district (remembering that Lunar New Year is celebrated by people across East Asia), it’s worth embracing the good vibes, great activities, and amazing food of this incredible festival. 

 

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