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Chinese New Year: Q&A

Chinese New Year 2013 celebrations in London. Picture: Bethany Clarke/Getty Images Chinese New Year 2013 celebrations in London. Picture: Bethany Clarke/Getty Images

Tuesday, December 31, 2013
12:13 PM

When and what is Chinese New Year? And what’s happening in London?

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When?

The occasion falls on a different date every year, because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, not solar, meaning it takes account moon phases as well as the Earth’s movement around the Sun. The Gregorian calendar (January, February, March etc) is based just on the time it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun. Chinese New Year 2014 is on January 31.

How is celebrated?

The festival of new year runs for more than two weeks after Chinese New Year’s Eve, during which time gifts are exchanged and fireworks set off. At its culmination, a celebration known as Lantern Festival takes place, where paper lanterns are released into the sky, sometimes symbolising a relinquishing of past selves and an acquiring of new ones.

What’s taking place in London?

Both London and San Francisco claim to host the largest celebrations outside Asia, and last year saw more than half a million people descend on the West End. So you can expect festivities to be big – though little is confirmed yet. Events are planned in Trafalgar Square, Shaftesbury Avenue, Leicester Square and Chinatown for Sunday February 2.

And here are a few celebrations that have been confirmed: Enjoy cultural performances, food and charity stalls at this family event in east London; go clubbing in Brixton; or take your kids to the Museum of London in the Docklands to learn the art of Chinese papercutting. You could even learn more about the masterpieces of Chinese painting at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

What year is it?

2014 is the year of the horse, following on from 2012, the year of the snake and preceding 2015, whose animal is a goat.

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