Chinese New Year: What the Year of the Dragon Means

Words: Crush

The time for wishing people a “Happy New Year” might be over for some, but another New Year’s celebration is upon us – Chinese New Year. This event is filled with a rich, symbolic history, and this year’s theme promises perhaps one of the most significant observances. Each Lunar Year is dedicated to one of the zodiac animals, and 2024 is the “Year of the Dragon” – the only mythical animal of the Chinese zodiac pack. Find out what this powerful creature represents, and what else is in store for this year’s Spring Festival.

Year of the Dragon What is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is also known as ‘Chinese Lunar Year’, ‘Lunar New Year’ or ‘Spring Festival’. Unlike the Western New Year, which is based on the Gregorian calendar and always falls on the first of January, the Chinese New Year date changes annually.

Depending on the lunisolar calendar, it’s celebrated between 21st January and 20 February. The term “lunisolar” is a combination of the lunar and solar calendars, in which months are depicted as lunar and years are solar. The dates of the year are also determined by the position of the moon and sun. This calendar was invented during the Xia Dynasty (circa 2700 BC-1600 BC) and is followed by many cultures around the world, like in Middle Eastern and Asian countries.

Chinese Zodiac Origins

What’s interesting about Chinese New Year is that each year is assigned one of the five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water. These fundamental elements form the basis of the Five Elements Theory, also known as ‘Wu Xing’ – an ancient philosophy which describes the relationship between the natural elements in relation to the life force or ‘qi’. One of the five elements is also paired with a Chinese zodiac animal – Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig, and Rat – there are twelve in total.

Chinese zodiac animals

Legend has it that the order of the Chinese lunar calendar is based on a popular race that the Jade Emperor held many moons ago. The outcome of this race determined the blueprint for the calendar. This race involved many obstacles; in order to successfully finish the race, the animals had to cross a tempestuous river and make it safely to land. The Jade Emperor assigned a year to each animal, depending on their ranking in the race. The rat was the first of the animals to finish the race, which is why it’s the first year on the lunar calendar.

Chinese astrology is more complex than simply reading your horoscope. The Chinese zodiac or Shengxiao, which translates to ‘born resembling’, follows a twelve-year cycle, represented by the twelve zodiac animals. Everyone has a Chinese zodiac, which is determined by the year you were born and the natural element associated with it.

As for the 2024 Chinese New Year, the force of the Dragon is strong and has a couple of things in store for us all…

Year of the Dragon

The past few years have been a chaotic blur for most of us, with lots of unexpected turns and tragic losses. Thankfully, The Chinese New Year of 2024 marks the onset of the Year of the Dragon, a highly auspicious and revered zodiac sign in Chinese culture.

The Dragon is a symbol of strength, wisdom, and good fortune. It is believed to bring prosperity and success, making it an especially significant and anticipated year for those born under its influence.

Year of the Dragon 2024

Did you know? The Dragon is the only mythical creature in the Chinese zodiac, and its inclusion signifies a year of bold energy, transformation and positive change.

As people across the globe celebrate the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon invites reflections on the symbolic meaning of this majestic creature and the hope for a year filled with power, resilience and opportunities.

The Dragon symbolises strength, wisdom, and good fortune. Previous Dragon years include 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964…

Each Chinese zodiac is associated with personality traits and unique characteristics. Dragons generally get along with the Rat and Monkey, although, they are believed to be the most compatible with the Rat and Rooster zodiacs. They are least compatible with the Dog and Rabbit signs. While the Year of the Dragon will hopefully be an auspicious year for many, it’s believed that one’s zodiac year is often challenging, with the possibility of turning around for some – fingers crossed if you’re a Dragon.

This year’s Lunar New Year festivities will be marked by vibrant dragon dances, traditional rituals, and a collective sense of optimism for a promising year ahead.

How People Celebrate Chinese New Year?

The Year of the Dragon begins on 10 February 2024 and will end on Chinese New Year’s Eve, 28 January 2025. Chinese New Year usually starts with excitement, followed by a seven-day celebration filled with festivals, gifting and feasting with loved ones; decorations and firework displays will fill the streets. This is done to commemorate ancestors and deities; it’s also a time to cleanse and rid bad energy, while inviting good energy for the new year.

The Dragon symbolises strength, wisdom, and good fortune. Previous Dragon years include 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964…

Many omens, both good and bad, are associated with this holiday. It’s customary to wear red clothes, as the colour red is a good omen. Red envelopes are also filled with money, and gifted; the amount of cash presented should always be an even number, as odd numbers are believed to be bad luck. It’s also apparently bad luck to do spring cleaning on Chinese New Year, as you could be sweeping good luck away.

Foods typically enjoyed over Chinese New Year include mooncakes, a round cake resembling the moon; rectangular moon cakes are also common.  They are made with either sweet or savoury fillings – each province has a different style of making mooncakes.

Other traditional foods enjoyed over this period include longevity noodles (one long noodle that is eaten in its entirety), whole baked fish (this is believed to bring abundance), as well as sticky rice balls (signifying the spirit of togetherness).

Happy Chinese New Year! Learn more about New Year Traditions From Around the World.

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