The Chinese Zodiac New year begins on February 16th and brings the Year of the Dog.

The date of the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year because the new year follows the Chinese Lunar calendar meaning it coincides with the black or new moon in January or February.

The New Year festival lasts for 15 days, until the next full moon, and celebrates regeneration and new life.

The history behind Chinese New Year

The celebration has a history of over 3,000 years. As the years go by new traditions arise and celebrations become a lot more entertainment-orientated. Back in the day there wasn’t much money and the food had to be rationed, but nowadays the food is like an ongoing buffet, people receive money in red envelopes and the decorations get bigger each year.

Chinese New Year preparation

Chinese spring cleaning occurs a week before the New Year celebrations and locals spend the time thoroughly cleaning their homes. The tradition represents a wish to bid farewell to the old year ready to welcome in the New Year.

Decorations, containing the colour red, line every street and building and are put up a month before the New Year, however decoration in the home are traditional put up the night before. As 2018 is the year of the dog, the majority of decorations will symbolise the animal.

What’s the story behind Chinese New Year?

The Chinese Zodiac runs on a cycle of 12 years, with every year being named after an animal. The 12 animals are pig, dog, rooster, monkey, sheep, horse, snake, dragon, rabbit, tiger, ox and rat. It’s thought that people hold similar personality traits to the animal that represents the year they were born.

What are the Chinese New Year traditions?

Traditions differ year on year, but the main reason behind the celebrations remains the same; families are to come together and wish each other peace for the year ahead.

On the evening before Chinese New Year, families will unite for a reunion dinner and gifts and cards are exchanged. The reunion dinner is the most important dinner of the New Year, it’s were all generations of the family come together and enjoy the time and food as one big family.

One of the most well-known traditions is the Hong Bao; the older generation hands a red envelope filled with ‘lucky money’ to all the children or adults in the family who are yet to marry.

Another tradition is Chinese dumplings, these are the ‘must-eat’ food on Chinese New Year eve, accompanied with spring rolls and sticky rice cake.

Throughout the 15 day celebrations the main colour is red, as the Chinese believe the colour symbolises good luck and prosperity. The streets will be filled with red lanterns and red decorations which are prominent in people’s homes and offices throughout the celebration.

It’s been a tradition for many years to set off fireworks at midnight to welcome in the New Year. You can watch the amazing displays in major cities or, nowadays millions of private celebrations take place in China’s rural areas too.

So, where does travel insurance come into this?

If you are travelling to China during this festive period, make sure you check your travel insurer’s alcohol clause as it will differ between policies. There is no enforced drinking age in China, meaning everyone in the family will at least enjoy a taste of alcohol during the celebrations.

The Chinese believe alcohol can protect you from bad luck and many families will drink alcohol from the early afternoon well into the morning. If you are joining in the celebrations, look for a travel insurance policy that doesn’t have a zero-alcohol tolerance as you will not be covered for any claims, medical expenses etc., if you are intoxicated. Also, make sure you know your limits – you don’t want this celebration to be ruined because you had a little too much to drink…