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Lunar New Year in a Covid-19 world

Rosie Loyd

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

We have all heard of Chinese New Year, but what does it represent, and how are its festivities coping in a Covid-19 world? By including recent statistics and a breakdown of several of the traditions that take place during the two weeks of celebrations, our Current Affairs Editor, Rosie, attempts to scratch the surface of this globally renowned and vibrant festival.

Fireworks, superstitions, dancing dragons, and lanterns: what do they all mean?


Today marks the final day of the Lunar New Year, the most important festival of the year for Chinese people all over the world. Also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, this year’s events commenced on Tuesday 1st February, as determined by the lunar calendar.


Particularly special to this year’s celebrations was that some Chinese citizens, for the first time in 2 years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, were able to travel again to be with family. The statistics, however, highlight that this was by no means the case for everyone; China’s Ministry of Transportation predicted 1.18 billion trips to be made during this period, which, although is a 35% increase from 2020’s figures, it is nowhere near to the 3 billion trips recorded in 2019.


The presence of Covid-19 and China’s zero-Covid approach meant that many local provinces were under strict lockdowns, not permitting any travel. Similarly, the possibility of quarantining was a further deterrent, preventing many from taking day-long train journeys or flights out of cities into rural areas. Since this mass travel would, undoubtedly, increase the spread of the virus, some regional governments invoked incentives in order to persuade locals to stay in cities. For example, the government of Dongguan, an industrial city home to many economic migrants, announced that it would reward each non-local employee with a digital voucher worth 500 yuan (approximately £58) if they were to stay in the city during the New Year.


Nonetheless, Covid-19 could dampen not the spirit and celebrations of this festival. As is tradition, cities were decorated by lanterns and banners in vibrant red, China’s notorious colour representing luck, joy and happiness. Firework displays and firecrackers, too, filled the sky - an age-old practice thought to scare away evil spirits with the loud explosions.


During the two week festival, each day comes with its own unique customs. Day 3, for example, is known as ‘Day of the Red Mouth’. It is thought that arguments are more prone on this day, so those celebrating will tend to not go outside and keep away from social interactions. Day 6, on the other hand, known as ‘Horse’s Day’, is when people throw away the rubbish that has built up during the festival. This is believed to drive away the Ghost of Poverty and ultimately reflect one of the principal aims of Chinese New Year – to welcome in a fresh, hopeful and prosperous new year.


The celebrations continue for two weeks later until the day of the Lantern Festival, taking place on day 15. This day honours deceased ancestors, marking the full moon of the new lunar year and signifying the end of the Spring Festival. Streets are packed with colourful lanterns, dancing dragon parades, and the traditional snack, ‘tangyuan’, is consumed, a glutinous rice ball filled with red bean paste.


This year, it is the year of the tiger. Based on a 12-year cycle, the Chinese zodiac alternates each year between animals. The tiger is known to symbolise bravery, competitiveness and confidence. Thought by many to be the king of all beasts, the tiger is a powerful and resilient zodiac and very appropriate indeed for the strength needed nowadays to continue to battle through Covid-19. One professor from the University of San Francisco commented that the Year of the Tiger relates to new beginnings, linking in nicely with the hope for recovery from the past few years.


Whatever your zodiac, the Chinese New Year is a time for celebrating family (even if it is through Zoom!), and for seeing in the New Lunar year with festivities. I personally chose to treat myself to a bamboo steamer and make bao buns with sticky pork belly!

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average rating is 3 out of 5, based on 150 votes, Article ratings

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Barbara Dawson

average rating is 3 out of 5

Lovely tasty dish. Try it you won’t be disappointed.

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Aunty Liz

average rating is 3 out of 5

Very tasty and cheap. I often have this for tea!

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BETTS

average rating is 3 out of 5

Being a bilingual family (French mother and British father,) living in France I thought your article was extremely interesting . Have you research on bilingualism ? It seems that when the mother is British and the father French and they both live in France their children seem to be more bilingual than when the mother is French and the father is British . This is what we called mother tongue , isn't it ?

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Niamh

average rating is 3 out of 5

Such an interesting article!

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