The Year of the Tiger: Chinese New Year 2022

4th February 2022

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Happy Chinese New Year! This annual festival, spanning 15 days, is also known as the Chinese Spring Festival or Chunjie (春节) in Chinese. It is the biggest traditional festival in the Chinese community worldwide. This year, the festival marks the beginning of the Year of Tiger (Hunian虎年). We recently caught up with Dr Yanyin Zhang on the occasion of Chinese New Year to know more about what this annual festival means for the Chinese community all around the world.

According to Yanyin, like many traditional Chinese festivals, the Spring Festival is the time for family reunion. Everyone, especially children, wears new clothes; ‘red envelopes’ (hongbao 红包) in which parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles put cash (Yasuiqian 压岁钱) to give to children; relatives, neighbours, colleagues, and employers visit employees during the day to wish them Happy New Year (bainian 拜年).

During the Spring Festival Eve Dinner (Nianyefan 年夜饭), families get together to have their Spring Festival Eve Dinner (Nianyefan 年夜饭), usually a feast, on Chuxi (除夕), i.e., Spring Festival Eve (Nian Sanshi 年三十). People stay up till midnight (Shousui 守岁) to greet the first day of the New Year! Thousands of firecrackers are set alight at sharp midnight to farewell the old year and welcome in the new one.

The Lantern Festival (dengjie灯节) and Yuanxiaojie (元宵节) mark the 15th day of the Spring Festival. Round glutinous rice dumplings of various sweet and savoury fillings (yuanxiao元宵, tangtuan汤团) are served, and colourful lanterns are lit in streets and parks in the evening for people to appreciate and enjoy.

There’s also Shouxui (守岁), when families make jiaozi (饺子 dumplings) together (in northern China), and/or gather in front of their televisions to watch Chunwan (春晚) – the annual Spring Festival Evening Concert presented by Central Chinese TV (CCTV). In recent years, various online concerts on Chinese social media platforms, e.g., Bilibili, have attracted millions of people. These concerts, in particular the one by CCTV, provide topics for lively and humorous discussion on social media in the days that follow.

Each year, the Spring Festival is marked by Chunyun (春运), which stands for Spring Festival Transport. This refers to the period when millions of people travel home and back. It is the biggest domestic migration of the year that mobilises nearly all trains, flights, boats and private vehicles. In pre-COVID times in 2019, for example, the number of trips undertaken by people during the Chunyun period totalled 2.98 billion, compared to 0.8 billion in 2021! In 2022, Chunyun started on 17 January and ends on 25 February for a total of 40 days. The challenge of COVID and the Winter Olympics have prompted the Chinese Government to re-adopt the policy of 2021, which encourages people to reduce or stop travelling. Employers are called upon to offer incentives and organise festival activities for those not going home during the Spring Festival.

It is hoped that we see a post-COVID era soon, when the Chinese community across the globe can travel more, celebrate more, and gather together with their loved ones once more. Till then, Happy Chinese New Year, stay well and stay safe!

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster