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The most important of the traditional Chinese holidays, Chinese New Year is often referred to as the Spring Festival. Festive spirit is high and it is a time for family, reunion, and good food, with the observation of many traditions and themes of good luck, fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity.

In 2016, Chinese New Year begins on 08 February.

Holiday Origins

Originating during the Shang Dynasty (17th – 11th century BC), the first Chinese calendar had the purpose of keeping track of time to facilitate agriculture production.  It was important to know when to till the soil and sow the seeds.  During the Zhou Dynasty the year was formally called ‘Nian’.

The first and most well known legend around Chinese New Year is the legend of Nian (Year ‘Nian’ as in New Year – ‘Xin Nian’): There was a monster in ancient times with a body of a bull and the head of lion.  It was a ferocious animal that lived in the mountains and hunted for a living.  Towards the end of winter when there was nothing to eat Nian would visit the villages and attack and eat whatever it could causing the villagers to live in terror.  Over time the villagers realized that the ferocious Nian was afraid of three things: the colour red, fire, and loud noise. The villagers decorated their houses in red and set off firecrackers to expel it and it never returned – thus, these customs have continued to be passed from generation to generation.

Additionally, Lantern Festivals have been part of Chinese New Year celebrations since the Han Dynasty (206 BC- 221 AD). Usually held on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar, they signify the end of New Year festivities.

The celebration of Chinese New Year sees commercial businesses sell limited run products such as coins, stamp collector sets, chocolates, watches and even shoe brands Vans, Nike and Adidas release special edition Chinese New Year footwear.

The Chinese New Year Calendar

Chinese New Year is not the same as the New Year the rest of the Western World celebrates on 01 January.

This is because the Chinese use the lunar calendar – so Chinese New Year depends on the cycle of the moon. The exact date changes each year, but it usually falls on a day from 21 January to 20 February in the Gregorian calendar.

As has been the ancient tradition, the lunar calendar also defines the repeating cycle of Chinese zodiac, and each year is represented by animal signs associated with the change of time.

There are twelve animals that repeat every twelve years; 2016 represents the ninth animal of the Chinese zodiac, the Monkey (see below):

Year Date Holiday Zodiac Sign
2016 February 8 February 7 – 13 Monkey
2017 January 28 January 27 – February 2 Rooster
2018 February 16 February 15 – 21 Dog
2019 February 5 February 4 – 6 Pig
2020 January 25 January 24 – 30 Rat

2016 The Year of the Red Fire Monkey

The Monkey is an intelligent animal, good at problem solving, quick-witted and demonstrating independence but also the ability to work within their group.

The Monkey is youthful by nature, playful, and is a joy to watch as they move from activity to activity.

The general image of people in this zodiac sign is of always being lively, versatile and intelligent, especially in their career and wealth.

In addition, their gentleness and honesty bring them an everlasting love life.

Although they were born with enviable skills, they still have several shortcomings, such as an impetuous temper and a tendency to look down upon others.

Strengths: enthusiastic, self-assured, sociable, innovative, a problem solver
Weaknesses: jealous, suspicious, cunning, selfish, arrogant
Perfect Match: Ox, Rabbit
Bad Match: Tiger, Pig

Gift gifting during Chinese New Year

It is popular to give gifts during the Chinese New Year celebrations. It is customary for people give red envelopes decorated with gold Chinese characters like happiness and wealth, inside is a gift of money, and its best if the money is new and crisp (not coins or cheques).

Some other well-considered gifts are liquor, cigarettes, tea, fruits, and healthcare products.

Gifts to avoid include clocks, umbrellas, shoes, pears, sharp objects or chrysanthemums.

Popular foods to eat during Chinese New Year

Traditional ‘lucky’ foods to eat during Chinese New Year include fish, dumplings, spring rolls, niángāo (glutinous rice cake), tāngyuán (sweet rice balls) and fruits such as oranges and tangerines.

Not only do the dishes themselves matter, but also the pronunciation of the food names, preparation, appearance and eating mean a lot.


New Zealand Chinese New Year Events

New Zealand has a thriving Chinese community, and many Kiwis love to attend the colourful celebrations and festivals at this time as there is great entertainment including music and dance performances, parades, lantern displays, cultural workshops, food stalls and of course fireworks!

Here is Black Label’s guide to some of the 2016 Chinese New Year Events throughout NZ :


Chinese New Year Festival & Market Day
Date: Saturday 23 January 2016 from 9.30am-4pm.
Free entry.
Location: Halls 3 & 4, ASB Showgrounds, 217 Greenlane West, Auckland 1023.

Auckland Chinese Community Centre Inc has been organising an annual Chinese New Year celebration for nearly 30 years. The Festival has grown in popularity over these years, and has traditionally been the biggest celebration of Chinese New Year in the Auckland central region. It is now a prominent cultural event of the Auckland summer calendar with attendance by nearly 30,000 persons.

The celebration is a free event and is eagerly anticipated by many thousands of recent migrants from China and other parts of Asia because they can again experience the sights, sounds, smells and pageantry of a traditional Chinese New Year celebration which they enjoyed each year in their previous home country.
The 2016 festival to celebrate the Year of the Monkey is being held in Halls 3 and 4 of the ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane. 2016 programme highlights will include:

  • Grand Opening at 10am with an 11-person Dragon Dance
  • Over 200 specialist stalls selling Chinese New Year foodstuffs, traditional and exotic Chinese hot delicacies, Chinese traditional arts & crafts, and promoting advisory services
  • Indoor and outdoor entertainment programme with a diverse display of Chinese acrobats, cultural songs, martial arts, dances, tai chi and Chinese music
  • Other entertainment and games and rides for children
Asian Lunar New Year
Location: Vodafone Events Centre,
Date: Saturday 30 January from 3pm-11pm

Free cultural performances, pop music, family entertainment and a fireworks

Monkey Exhibition – Chinese New Year
Date: Saturday 06 February 2016 to Saturday 21 February 2016 from 10am-5pm
Location: Parnell Road, Parnell.

A unique and creative exhibition will showcase 30 life-sized monkey artworks over the two weeks, which will then be auctioned for charity.

Led by Parnell galleries, well-known New Zealand artists will add their talent and creative touch to a monkey sculpture. There will even be a few celebrities exhibiting their artistic flair!

Using the intelligence and clever wit of the monkey, Parnell Road will put on a colourful display of as many monkeys and monkey-themed ideas as it can possibly find space for. The trick will be to find them to make a silent auction bid or to enter the parnell.net.nz competition.

On the street, shops, cafés and restaurants will showcase monkeys in a variety of ways, from merchandise to menu options, window displays and other exciting surprises. Saturday 13 February, excitement will build with a performance by a Lion Dance Troupe in Heard Park.

The Year of the Monkey celebration will conclude with the auction for the Starship Foundation at Webb’s auction house.


Chinese and Korean New Year Festival
Date: Friday 12 February 2016 from 5.30pm-9pm and Saturday 13 February 2016 from 10am-3pm
Free entry
Location: Northcote Shopping Centre, North Shore.

The North Shore will host this family-friendly festival with vibrant cultural performances, free children’s activities, and an array of Asian cuisine. The event also features special activities such as Chinese fortune telling and a sporting “Have-a-Go” area co-ordinated by Harbour Sport’s ActivAsian programme.

A large stage will feature music, martial arts, song and dance, from a variety of cultures including Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese.

Feature Chinese performances include the EPACS Lion Dance Team, Chinese Dance Groups such as the NZ International School and the Auckland Dong Fang Dance Group.

There will be several Korean performances from the Korean Society of Auckland and the Korean Traditional Music & Cultural Group.

The Chinese and Korean New Year Festival is free to the public with sponsorship coming from the Northcote Town Centre and the Kaipatiki Local Board.

Chinese New Year with Lion Dance Performances
Date: Saturday 13 February 2016 at 12.30pm-1pm and 2.30pm-3pm
Free entry
Location: Heard Park, Parnell.

 Experience two live performances by the well-known E-PACS Lion & Dragon Dance Group in Parnell. This traditional Chinese dance, performed for good luck during Chinese New Year celebrations is a vibrant display of sound and colour.

Hear the beating drums, clashing cymbals as the Lion dancers imitate a lion’s movements. You will be entertained by the gymnastic skills of the performers’ agility and strength as the Lion twists, jumps, rolls and leaps around to celebrate the Year of the Monkey.

Lantern Festival
Date: Thursday 18 February 2016 – Sunday 21 February 2016
Free entry.
Location: Auckland Domain 

The hugely popular Auckland Lantern Festival will be held on Thursday 18 February (lantern only night) to Sunday 21 February. Previously held annually at Albert Park in the central city, the Festival will be hosted at a new location in 2016.


Organised by The Asia New Zealand Foundation, this year there will be four international acts coming to New Zealand to perform at the 2016 festivals in Auckland and Christchurch. They are:

  • A magician and strongman act from Guangzhou Acrobatic Arts Theatre
  • Puppeteers from Shanghai Puppet Theatre
  • Traditional music trio Guangdong Philharmonic Choir
  • Chinese rock band Second Hand Rose from Beijing.

The international acts are being brought to New Zealand with support from Chinese Ministry of Culture, Shanghai Cultural Bureau, Guangzhou Cultural Bureau and Air New Zealand.


East Meets West
Date: Saturday 13 February 2016 from 7.30pm.
NZD25 per ticket, excluding service & delivery fees.
Location: TSB Bank Arena, Jervois Quay, Wellington 6011.

 Presented by the Asian Events Trust and Wellington City Council, Wellington’s Year of the Monkey celebrations begin with ‘East Meets West’ – 30 of Xiamen’s dance/song/music performers presenting an extravaganza alongside some of Wellington’s best performers in a fusion of eastern and western performing arts.

Tickets are available via Ticketek’s online website: http://premier.ticketek.co.nz/events/EASTWEST16/venues/WQW/performances/EWQW2016645/tickets

Don’t miss this one-only show in New Zealand!

Festival Day
Date: Sunday 14 February 2016 from 10.30am-6.30pm.
Free entry.
Location: TSB Bank Arena, Shed 6, Frank Kitts Park

 Wellington’s waterfront area will come live for Festival Day on Sunday 14 February, with an Asian Market featuring crafts, wellness practitioners, delicious foods, kids activities, and exciting cultural entertainment such as a Street Parade.



Lantern Festival
Date: Saturday 27 February 2016 and Sunday 28 February 2016 from 5pm-10.30pm. Free entry.
Location: North Hagley Parks Events Village, Rolleston Ave, Christchurch

The Christchurch Lantern Festival is brought to you by the Christchurch City Council in partnership with Asia New Zealand Foundation.

Head along with friends, family or work colleagues and experience a taste of Chinese culture amidst hundreds of vibrantly coloured lanterns specially imported from China.


There’ll be delicious Asian food stalls, crafts, fireworks and non-stop entertainment including international acts (also attending the Auckland Lantern Festival) including master puppeteers from Shanghai and the famous Second Hand Rose rock band from Beijing.

A not-to-be-missed event for everyone in the Christchurch area!


Chinese New Year
Date: Monday 08 February 2016 from 7pm-10pm.
Gold coin entry.
Location: Dunedin Chinese Garden, Corner Rattray & Cumberland Streets, Dunedin

Visit Dunedin’s Chinese Garden and celebrate Chinese heritage while welcoming in the New Year. Exotic, surprising and fun.

7.15pm            Dragon parade from the Octagon
7.45pm            Dragon dance, cultural performances, food stalls and more at the Garden
Fireworks finale starts at 10pm.

Bookings and Enquiries

Book your Chinese New Year experiences by contacting Black Label today for add-on options for accommodation, transfers, or reservations at top dining establishments; bookings and enquiries are welcomed via email: tania@blacklabelexperience.com

Helpful Web Links

Asia New Zealand Foundation: www.asianewzealand.org.nz

Auckland Chinese Community Centre Inc: www.aucklandchinese.org.nz

Parnell Monkey Exhibition www.parnell.net.nz

Wellington celebrations www.chinesenewyear.co.nz

Dunedin celebrations http://www.dunedinchinesegarden.com/events/chinese-new-year

China Southern Airlines: http://global.csair.com/


Text Sources: Auckland Chinese Community Centre and Eventfinda information, and web links as per above.