All about the Lunar New Year: Explaining Asia’s biggest holiday


Graphic by Maria Otto ’17

By Han Luo

The Lunar New Year is an important festival celebrated at the turn of the Chinese lunar calendar. In China, it is also known as the Spring Festival, the literal translation of the modern Chinese name. According to tales and legends, the origin of the Chinese New Year started with a great battle against a mythical beast called the “Year.” The “Year” looks like an ox with a lion’s head, and resides in the sea. At the night of New Year’s Eve, the “Year” will come out seeking to do harm to people, animals and properties. Later, people found that the “Year” fears the color red, fire, and loud sounds. Therefore, for self-protection, people formed the habit of posting red Couplet (Duìlián, 对联) in front of their homes, as well as launching fireworks, and hanging lanterns at the end of the year.

According to Chinese astrology, each year, starting from the first Chinese New Year, is associated with an animal sign, occurring in a 12-year cycle. In addition to the animal sign, each year is also associated with one of the Five Elements : Gold (Metal), Water, Wood, Fire, or Earth. Both the sign and element of your birth year are said to affect your personality and destiny. 2016 is a year of the Fire Monkey.

People born in a Year of the Monkey are said to be witty, intelligent, and have a magnetic personality. Personality traits, like curiosity and cleverness, make them very mischievous. Monkeys are masters of practical jokes, because they like to spend most of their time playing and having fun. Although they don’t have any bad intentions, their pranks sometimes hurt the feelings of others. Monkeys are fast learners and crafty opportunists. They have many interests and need partners who are capable of stimulating them. While some like the eccentric nature of monkeys, some don’t trust their sly, restless, and inquisitive nature. Despite their cleverness and creativity, Monkeys can’t always exhibit their talent properly. Monkeys like to take on challenges, and they prefer urban life to rural.

Monkey years are believed to be unlucky for people born in a Year of the Monkey. A year of one’s birth sign is believed to be the most unlucky in the 12-year cycle. Monkeyswho take Chinese astrology seriously are particularly careful about their health, love lives, career, and investments during Monkey years.  

In relationships, Monkeys are not very quick to settle down, as they tend to be promiscuous and are easily bored. However, once Monkeys get a perfect partner, they commit to them in every possible way. Since Monkeys love to talk and are sociable, they communicate easily. Love compatibility within the Chinese zodiac takes into account the unique characteristics of each animal. Only those whose characteristics match each other well can be good partners. The best partners for the Monkey are the Ox and the Rabbit, while the Tiger and the Pig make for their worst partners.

Han Luo is a full-time lecturer of Chinese.