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It’s not quite new year yet for over 1.1m people in Australia.

For some Asian-Australians, the New Year is still to come. For them, New Year doesn’t start until Thursday, 19 February 2015.

If you have friends, work colleagues or clients who celebrate “Chinese New Year or “Lunar New Year”, we’ve compiled a concise Lunar/Chinese New Year Surival Kit, with all you need to know, including:

  • What is it called? Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year?
  • How do you celebrate?
  • New Year gift ideas
  • Taboos to avoid
  • Popular New Year Greetings and how to say them

Chinese New Year / Lunar New Year / Spring Festival – Say What?!

Relax. They all refer to the same festival.

It is called the Lunar New Year because the Chinese use the lunar calendar – based on moon phases. The date of Lunar New Year falls on a different day each on our calendar because our calendar is based on the solar phases.

Generally, the new Lunar year begins between late January and mid February in our Calendar.

And to further clarify the matter, the Government of People Republic of China officially named it “Spring Festival” (春节) to distinguish it from the Western New Year. While it’s a three day public holiday, the officially festival lasts 15 days, one full moon cycle. The festival is not exclusively celebrated in China (including Hong Kong, Macau), but also by many other Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Korea. Of course, this celebration is spreading across the globe with diaspora communities, particularly of those from China, Vietnam and Korea.

Be mindful though, “Happy Chinese New Year” may not be appropriate if you are greeting with Vietnamese or Korean, in such case, “Happy Lunar New Year” would be a better phrase.

When is New Year’s Day?

This year, New Year starts on Thursday, 19 February 2015.

What animal is it this year?

For Chinese, the zodiac animal for 2015 can be Sheep, Ram or Goat – the Chinese character for these animals. For Vietnamese, it’s only known as the year Goat.

So depending on the culture, expect to hear that 2015 is the year of the Sheep or Ram or Goat.

How to celebrate?

  • Making loud noises: dragon dance, lion dance, firecracker, fireworks, music (especially percussion) to ward off evil – watch the story of Nian video above.
  • Lots of red: why not another color? See the story of Nian
  • New things: for the New Year: new clothes, new home, new furniture. It’s about starting a whole new chapter
  • Start the new year with luck: understand your Chinese Zodiac and be mindful of the Chinese New Year taboos. Luck is not passive, you can do things to help improve it in the new year.
  • Abundant feasting: full days and nights of feasts! Food like noodles (symbolic food of long lasting life and luck) and dumplings (the gold ingot shape helps to retain wealth) are key mascots on the feast table for New Year!
  • It’s about family: family gathering and reunion.
  • It’s about thanksgiving: giving thanks and sending blessings to your family and friends

Lunar New Year Gift Ideas

Give red envelope ( Simplified Chinese: 紅包 ; Traditional Chinese: 利是). There must be something worthy in the red envelope, i.e. for kids, it could be a candy. Giving an empty envelope would be regarded as bad luck since it’s “空” (empty) which is similar to the sounds of “凶” (bad luck/danger).

It’s a custom for seniors to give red envelope to the juniors, particularly parents to unmarried children. However, children may also give envelopes to the elderly parents. Relax, you’re not expected to give red envelopes to work colleagues. However, during prosperous times, bosses give a red envelope as a bonus to employees.

If you’re invited to a New Year party: bring either alcohol, tea, candies, tobacco, fruit (except for pears, it sounds similar to the word “separate”). Good thing comes in pairs so bonus points for bringing even numbers of gifts, such as 2 tins of tea.

For those who are in their Zodiac Year   (犯太): If it’s the zodiac year of your loved one, give them something they can wear or use each day that’s red in color. That should protect them from the bad luck they may face in their year. Consider bracelets, clothes, underwear or socks. See the website about Chinese New Year zodiac above for more information.


As always, it’s just not about the do’s but also be mindful of the don’ts

  • Avoid everything that associated with the number “4” as the sound in Chinese is similar to “death”
  • Anything that’s in black/white/light blue. They are funeral colours
  • No Books, In Chinese, “book” has the similar sound of “lose”
  • The worst gift idea: clock. it has the meaning of “attending the funeral”
  • Avoid any sharp object, e.g. knives, scissors, as they symbolize cutting ties
  • Don’t throw anything away in the first few day of the New Year period as you may also throw your luck away. That goes for sweeping the floor, in case you sweep out your luck.

Lunar New Year Greetings

If you want to impress your cultural diverse friends, colleagues or clients, learn more than just the standard greeting messages. Download the following common Chinese/Vietnamese/Korean greetings to your smartphone and keep them handy!

Year of Sheep special in Mandarin (to include the sound of “sheep” into the greetings):

Start strong in the New Year! (三陽開泰)

A new fresh year! (新春飛掦)

Full of joy! (羊年喜洋洋)

Strong business business performance! (生意洋洋得意)


Vietnamese Lunar New Year (Tết) greetings in Vietnamese:

Happy New Year! (Chúc mừng năm mới)

All wishes come true! (Vạn sự như ý)

Wish you a wealthy new year! (Năm mới tấn tài tấn lộc)


Korean Lunar New Year greetings in Korean:

Happy New Year! (신년을 축하합니다)

Bless your New Year! (새해 복 많이 받으세요)