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Year of the Rat: All you need to know about the Chinese New Year

Ever wondered why Chinese people celebrate their new year on a different date? EWN explains what you need to know about the Chinese New Year and where celebrations will take place in Gauteng.

Visitors in traditional cheongsams take a selfie in a shop decorated for the Chinese Lunar New Year in Bangkok on 24 January 2020. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN – The Chinese New Year is one of the most vibrant celebrations on the planet and sees billions of people celebrating.

Here’s what you need to know about the new year, also referred to as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival.

WHEN IS THE 2020 CHINESE NEW YEAR?

According to the Chinese zodiac, it’s a Year of the Rat and will start on Saturday, 25 January 2020.

Saturday will mark the start of a legal seven-day holiday for those celebrating in China. However, celebrations can last up until February when the Lantern Festival takes place.

WHY THE YEAR OF THE RAT?

The Chinese zodiac has a 12-year cycle, with each named after an animal. This follows a legend that Buddha called on all animals to say goodbye before he left the earth but only 12 showed up.

Buddha rewarded these animals by naming a year after them.

Rats symbolise prosperity and wealth in Chinese culture. The rat is also the first zodiac sign in China. It is followed by the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

The Year of the Rat was last celebrated in 2008.

WHY DATE CHANGES?

The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar. This means it’s based on phases of the moon and the sun’s longitude, unlike the western Gregorian calendar.

While the western calendar focuses on months, the Chinese calendar has a 12-year cycle.

WHY ‘LUNAR NEW YEAR’ & ‘SPRING FESTIVAL’

The Chinese New Year is also celebrated in other parts of the world, including Korea and Singapore and is called the Lunar New Year, referring to the phases of the moon.

It’s called the ‘Spring Festival’ as it also symbolises the beginning of spring.

WHERE TO CELEBRATE IN GAUTENG?

Many parts of China have cancelled new year events and put at least four cities on lockdown, following the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

The virus has killed more than 20 people and it’s reported that over 800 others have been infected. The virus began in Wuhan, China. It was later detected in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

Despite this, many Chinese people in South Africa and other parts of the world will be celebrating the start of their new year.

In Gauteng, celebrations will start at the Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit. Celebrations will start at 10am and end at 3pm.

More events are planned for February, according to the Chinese Association in Gauteng.

A Chinese street party is set for Johannesburg on 1 February at Derrick Avenue, Cyrildene. It will be hosted by China Town Cyrildene.

On 8 February, people can look forward to fireworks and food stalls, among other things, at the First Chinatown on Commissioner Street in Johannesburg.

Celebrations will move to Rivonia on 15 February. It will be hosted by Oriental City at the Oriental City Rivonia from 10am until 10pm.

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