The Year of the Dragon begins on 23 January 2012, and will be marked in Scotland as well as in Chinese communities worldwide.

What is Chinese New Year ?

Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China it is also known as “Spring Festival”. The festival begins on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar, and ends with Lantern Festival on the 15th day. The date varies from year to year with the lunar calendar, but is generally between mid January and mid February. In agricultural life, it represents the start of new life and the season of ploughing and sowing.

Chinese New Year is celebrated right across the People’s Republic of China, and in other countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, such Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and in Chinatowns worldwide.

According to folk legend, the Chinese New Year traditions started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian. Nian would come on the first day of New Year to eat livestock, crops, and even villagers. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food, it wouldn’t attack any more people.

On one occasion, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. So, every year, the villagers hung red lanterns and red scrolls on windows and doors, and used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. Many of the modern traditions are based on this story.

How is Chinese New Year celebrated ?

Within China, regional customs and traditions vary widely. People exchange gifts, clean and decorate their house and buy new clothes.    Families mark the coming of the New Year with fireworks to frighten away “evil spirits” – Chinese cities are very noisy places around midnight, and for hours afterwards! Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes.

What is the significance of the animals ?

The Chinese Lunar Calendar names each of its twelve years after an animal. One legend says Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from earth. Only twelve came to bid him farewell, and as a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived.

The animals are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, which rotate in a 12 year cycle in that order. The current year, ending on 22 January 2012, is the Year of the Rabbit. The Year of the Dragon runs from 23 January 2012 to 9 February 2013.

The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality, saying, “this is the animal that hides in your heart”.

Edinburgh Celebrations

On the weekend of Saturday 21 and 22 January, Edinburgh Zoo invites families to join them as they celebrate their Giant Pandas and all the Chinese animals at Edinburgh Zoo. Enjoy activities for children and adults. Learn Mandarin and discover all about Chinese Culture, take a calligraphy workshop and listen to Chinese music and entertainment. Even make your own dragon! There will also be competitions, quizzes and lots more. Admission charges apply.  Edinburgh Zoo, 134 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh EH12 6TS

For 12+, Take One Action Film Festivals is presenting ‘China On The Move: Marking Chinese New Year on Film‘ to mark Chinese New Year, with four award-winning films offering different perspectives on the complex transformations taking place in contemporary Chinese cinema, society and industry, and how they relate to the wider world. All screenings are at the Edinburgh Filmhouse, and will be followed by expert and audience discussion:

Mr Tree (Hello! Shu Xian Sheng)Wed 25 Jan only

Mr Tree
(Hello! Shu Xian Sheng)

Han Jie
China 2011
88 minutes
Rated 12A
Cast: Wang Baoqiang , Tan Zhuo.
Mandarin with English subtitles
Last Train HomeThu 26 Jan only

Last Train Home

Lixin Fan
Country of origin and year
Canada/China/UK 2009
85 minutes
Rated 12A
Mandarin with English subtitles
Apart Together (Tuan yuan)Sat 28 Jan only

Apart Together
(Tuan yuan)

Wang Quan’an
China 2010
97 minutes
Rated 12A
Cast: Lisa Lu, Ling Feng, Xu Cai-gen, Monica Mok, Baiyang.
Mandarin with English subtitles

Manufactured Landscapes
Sun 29 Jan only
Manufactured Landscapes
Jennifer Baichwal
Country of origin and year
Canada 2006
90 minutes
Rated 12A

English, Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles


Gong Hey Fat Choy!

(Wishing you prosperity in the coming year)

(Information from Scotland China Association)