We've already given an overview about Chinese New Year in the Philippines. We've also written some reviews about Chinese, or Chinese-influenced, establishments. Now, we're going beyond the firecrackers, dancing dragons and ang pao, and into the more interesting side of what Mandarin speakers call xin nian or guo nian:
The Chinese New Year Came About Because of a (Legendary) Beast
According to an old legend, there once lived in China a beast called Nian, so-called because of the sound it made when it roared. Every year, on the night of the next full moon after the winter solstice, it terrorized nearby villagers, and took their crops, livestock and children. Helpless, the villagers could do nothing but hide in their houses on the nights the Nian was expected to show up.
One day, an old man appeared in the village. As it turned out, he was a god. He told the villagers that they had nothing to fear, for the Nian can be frightened off by loud noises, strange creatures and the color red. And so started the tradition of lighting firecrackers, wearing lion/dragon costumes, and using red objects for good luck.
Incidentally, the Mandarin word for "year" is "nian," while the phrase "guo nian" — which is also the Mandarin phrase for "New Year" — also means "defeating the Nian." Coincidence? We think not.
The Chinese New Year Doesn't Have a Fixed Date
At least, that's how users of the Gregorian calendar see it. Since the Chinese calendar is based on the phases of the moon, their New Year can fall anywhere between the third week of January and the third week of February. If you want a rough date, find out when the first day of the new moon will be.
Your Chinese Zodiac Sign May Differ From Someone Born in the Same Year
Let's say you were born on January 1, 1985, while your friend was born on December 31, 1985. Most sources say that 1985 is the "Year of the Ox," but that's not exactly accurate.
See, if we're going to follow the lunar calendar, your birthday actually corresponds to the Year of the Rat (February 2, 1984 – February 19, 1985), while your friend's corresponds to the Year of the Ox (February 20, 1985 – February 8, 1986). So before you check your horoscopes for the year, make sure you're checking under the right sign!
The Chinese New Year Lasts for 15 Days
Unlike Westerners, the Chinese don't celebrate the first day of the New Year and leave it at that. To ensure good fortune and prosperity for the succeeding months, they follow traditions that correspond to a specific day.
For example, the second day is for praying to ancestors and gods, the third and fourth days are for paying respects to in-laws, the fifth day is for welcoming the God of Wealth, and so on and so forth. All of this culminates on the Lantern Festival, the 15th day, which corresponds to the night of the first full moon. On this day, the celebrations are in full swing: fireworks, lion/dragon dances, eating yuanxiao (rice dumplings) and even games.
The Chinese New Year is a Non-Working Holiday
Good news, non-workaholics: Thanks to a proclamation issued last August 20, 2015, the Chinese New Year is now a special, non-working holiday. This means that employees who choose to show up for work are entitled to additional pay, as follows:
- For employees who don't show up on February 8, 2016, the "no work, no pay" rule applies, unless company policies state otherwise;
- For employees who show up on the aforementioned date, they are entitled to an additional 30 percent of their daily rate for the first eight hours;
- If they choose to work in excess of eight hours (whether it’s a regular or rest day), they will have an additional 30 percent of their hourly rate, multiplied by the number of overtime hours they worked;
- If employees report for work on the aforementioned date, and that date happens to be a rest day (i.e. Saturday and Sunday or just Saturday/Sunday), they are entitled to an additional 50 percent of their daily rate for the first eight hours. Obviously, this doesn't apply for February 8, 2016.
You Are Not Necessarily Lucky in "Your" Own Year
According to the horoscopes, those born in the Year of the Monkey should expect not-so-good fortune in 2016, which is (wait for it) the Year of the Red/Fire Monkey. To be honest, we're not sure why it works that way either, but maybe the astrologers have an explanation?
And that wraps up our Chinese New Year series for 2016. (Bonus trivia: "6" is a lucky number in Chinese culture, while "4" and its iterations aren't. Go figure.) If you're familiar with Chinese New Year superstitions that aren't well-known to non-Chinese, please share them in the comments section. Gong Xi Fa Chai!