Chinese New Year 2017: Everything You Need To Know To Be In The Know 

Welcoming the year of the Rooster. 

But wait ‘til you find out what that means. 

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By now you’ve probably seen Chinese festive decorations go up in Asian communities in your town, or your local fave Golden Dragon feature a special menu. It’s a very exciting time in Asia and for all those who follow the Chinese zodiac cycle. But what’s going on? Why are there red lanterns everywhere? What does the rooster have to do with it and will it affect me? Also, what deliciousness can we expect to eat at this time of year?

First Things First. What’s Going On?

The Chinese zodiac cycle follows the lunar calendar and is made up of 12 animals, with one animal representing one year in the 12-year cycle. 2017 is the year of the rooster, following the year of the monkey in 2016 and preceding the year of the dog in 2018. (For a full list of animals and their prospective years, scroll to the end of this post)

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Besides an animal for their year of birth, each person is also assigned an element depending on the exact year they were born in. According to Chinese mythology, the animal as well as the element are believed to affect characteristics of a person’s personality and destiny. 

Type of Rooster

Year of Birth


Wood Rooster

1945, 2005

Energetic, overconfident, tender, and unstable

Fire Rooster

1957, 2017

Trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work

Earth Rooster

1909, 1969

Lovely, generous, trustworthy, and popular with their friends

Gold Rooster

1921, 1981

Determined, brave, perseverant, and hardworking

Water Rooster

1933, 1993

Smart, quick-witted, tenderhearted, and compassionate

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(Turns out I am smart, quick-witted, tenderhearted, and compassionate. And I can assure you that is very accurate.)

According to Chinese astrology, the year of a person’s birth animal is actually the most unlucky year for him/her in the 12-year cycle. The whole ‘it’s my year’ thing has a different connotation in the Chinese belief. 

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Roosters need to be extra careful throughout 2017, and try to ward off bad luck where they can. This may include wearing more red clothing and using jade stone accessories, as these are believed to be lucky.

Where’s The Party? How Do People Celebrate?

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The start of the Chinese New Year falls on Saturday 28th January this year. In modern Chinese speak the event is known as the ‘Spring Festival’ and includes celebrations across China and in Chinese communities abroad. The festival is a time to honour deities and family ancestors and is a festival of light, family, and food. The celebration lasts around 15 days from the Chinese New Year’s Eve, with each day entailing different customs leading up to the gorgeous Lantern Festival on the 15th day. 

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It is believed that homes need to be thoroughly cleaned before the new year, in order to literally sweep away bad luck and misfortune so that prosperity can enter. Windows and doors are decorated with red colour papers as red is believed to bring good luck, and relatives and friends give money to each other in red envelopes. In modern times and especially amongst younger generations, people may even send ‘virtual’ or ‘electronic’ red envelopes via apps on their phones. 

The youth, I tell you. 

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Families get together for reunion dinners, launch fireworks and firecrackers, and watch traditional Chinese shows including the famed dragon and lion dances. Most working professionals will get 7 days off work in order to celebrate, and many use this time to holiday and visit tourist destinations. 

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New Year’s Eve dinner is the most important dinner of the celebration. Together with the whole family, people normally eat fish as it is believed to be prosperous. Northern Chinese also enjoy dumplings, and almost all NYE dinners are eaten at home rather than at a restaurant. Other lucky foods include spring rolls, tangyuan (sweet rice balls), niangao (glutinous rice cake), and longevity noodles. 

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How Do I Wish My Friends A Happy Chinese New Year? 

I know what you’re thinking now. How can I get in on the action? 

If you don’t have access to traditional Chinese celebrations, you can always wish your friends and spread goodwill:

新年快乐 / 新年快樂 (Xīnnián kuàilè)

‘New Year happiness!’

In Mandarin: /sshin-nyen kwhy-ler/

In Cantonese: /sen-nin feye-lor/

新年好 / 新年好 (Xīnnián hǎo)

‘New Year goodness!’ (like “Good day.”)

In Mandarin: /sshin-nyen haoww/

In Cantonese: /sen-nin haow/

过年好 / 過年好 (Guònián hǎo)

‘Pass the New Year well!’

In Mandarin: /gwor-nyen haoww/

In Cantonese: /gwor-nin haow/

恭喜发财 / 恭喜發財 (Gōngxǐ fācái)

‘Happiness and prosperity!’

In Mandarin: /gong-sshee faa-tseye/

In Cantonese: Kunghei fatchoy /gong-hey faa-chwhy/

And in order to avoid any festival faux pas, make note of some of the season’s taboos: 

No crying because it brings bad luck 

No scissors or knives because they cut wealth

No lending or borrowing money because it invites debt

No killing because it causes misfortune

No breaking dishes because it brings bad luck 

No black or white clothes because they are unlucky colours

No hospital visits because it invites illness

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As in many cultures, the new year celebration is a vibrant, happy time. A great star to the year is believed to lead to a great year, and we are hopeful that the year of the rooster (even if it’s your sign) will bring along great health and wealth to us all. We wish all those who celebrate all the happiness and prosperity, and great joy with your families and festivities as they begin with the year of the fire rooster this coming Saturday.

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(Also if you’re not a rooster and you’re curious what your animal is, find out below.)

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Gōngxǐ fācái

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