Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year, which will be welcomed in Durham with some rather colourful celebrations.

The Year of the Rooster will last from 28th January 2017 to 15th February 2018. Because the traditional Chinese calendar is influenced by both the sun and moon, New Year’s Day changes from year-to-year. It begins whenever the new moon first appears between 21st January and 20th February.

Like its western counterpart, the Chinese zodiac is divided into twelve signs, but these correspond to years rather than months. Each year is represented by an animal sign and people born in a certain year are supposed to share certain personality traits.

Durham Welcomes in Chinese New Year
Durham will celebrate Chinese New Year with a lion dance

For example, people born in the Year of the Tiger are seen as being brave and competitive while those born in the Year of the Rabbit are friendly, kind-hearted and cautious.

If you were born in 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993 or 2005, you are a rooster. People born in the Year of the Rooster are hardworking, resourceful, confident and talented. Roosters are talkative, active and sociable, and they enjoy the spotlight.

They do, though, have some shortcomings, being vain, arrogant and prone to bragging. They can also be emotionally volatile, over-sensitive and moody.

Roosters have lucky numbers (5,7,8), lucky colours (brown, gold, yellow), and lucky directions (south and south-east). Famous people born in the Year of the Rooster include Prince Philip, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Roger Federer and Beyoncé.

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is an extremely important festival in China and among people of Chinese origin all over the world.

Customs vary, but some common traditions include enjoying family dinners (which often feature vegetable dumplings), sweeping the house thoroughly to get rid of bad luck, giving gifts of money in red envelopes (red is a lucky colour in China), staying up late to see the New Year in, and setting off firecrackers.

Durham Welcomes in Chinese New Year
A lucky red envelope containing money

There are also certain activities that should be avoided at New Year such as washing hair (as one may wash away one’s fortune) and killing animals (blood is seen as a bad omen).

New Year festivities usually continue until the 15th Day of the first month of the New Year, when they are rounded off by the traditional Lantern Festival. On this night, people walk about carrying lucky red lanterns. Some are carved in the shapes of animals; others have riddles carved into them that people are asked to solve.

In Durham, the Chinese New Year will be celebrated with a lion dance. The dance will be performed by members of the Oceans Apart Kong Fu Club. The dance will begin at 12.30 in the Market Place, where the lion will perform an energetic routine before eating a lucky lettuce, chewing it and spitting it out. The lettuce will be caught by Durham’s mayor, which should bring the city good luck.

The lion will then visit the Prince Bishops Shopping Centre, Elvet Bridge, Framwellgate Bridge and Walkergate, where the lion dance is due to end at 2.30 pm.

There will be a brief martial arts demonstration in the Market Place before the lion dance starts. A drop-in Chinese-themed arts and crafts session will be held in Clayport Library in Millennium Place from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm. There will be a charge of £1 for each child attending.

Durham Magazine would like to wish all our readers Xinnian hao or Happy New Year!

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