What is Spring Festival? Time to put on your red socks!

zodiac sign for 2017Bunches of red socks are being wrapped as New Year gifts and Chinese migrant workers are already queuing up to buy train tickets to return back home for one short week at the end of January. During this week all manufacturing and business stops in the whole country to give way to New Year celebrations. The biggest holiday of the year, Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival) is the most family-oriented one too.

Everybody, no matter how far from home they work or study, has to go back for family celebrations(过年). This creates the world’s biggest short-term migration within the country (春运). If you are in China during the New Year, you probably do not want to find yourself on an overcrowded train, so plan your travel ahead!

What’s the Zodiac Sign for 2017?

Twelve animals (生肖)are assigned to every lunar year in a twelve-year cycle: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. All of the twelve animals are loved and respected in the Chinese culture as they are either important to the traditional households (like Pig or Goat) or bear positive connotations in folk legends (like Monkey or Dragon). You can read about the legend explaining the order of appearance of the twelve animals here. Apart from the twelve animals cycle, each year also bears a sign of one of five elements 五行 – wood木, fire火, earth土, metal金, or water水. The element changes every two years which means that the element and the animal meet every sixty years.

The combination of the two systems gives us a Fire Rooster (or Fire Chicken) as a sign for the coming year of 2017. The Fire Rooster will topple down the Fire Monkey on January 28th 2017. Since the Chinese New Year is following the lunar calendar and the date is not fixed, those who were born in January and February should check the exact date of the Spring Festival and thus of the sign change in their birth year.

What is a Fire Rooster like?

Fire RoosterEach animal is associated with a particular trait of character. The rooster is a confident trustworthy individual, with strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility. Roosters are also considered very neat and organized; their homes are clean and cozy. The fire element makes Roosters career-oriented activists, who are impatient to achieve success. If such impatience is kept at bay, Roosters have good chances of gradually realizing their ambitions. Otherwise, excessive eagerness to succeed may give Fire Roosters the feeling of constant underperforming and missing out on important opportunities.

According to the zodiac compatibility, Roosters are most compatible with an Ox or Snake and most incompatible with a Goat and a Rabbit. Beliefs about the influence of the zodiac sign on one’s fortune in life are still so strong and common that decisions about choosing a partner, marriage, childbirth, profession and dietary choices are still made with special regard to the zodiac.

What is the Deal with Red Socks and Underwear?

According to Chinese folk beliefs, it’s bad luck when your Chinese New Yearzodiac year comes around. People who were born in the year of the same zodiac as the one of the coming year should be extremely cautious, as they inadvertently may attract the attention of all kinds of evil spirits. Originally, those whose zodiac year is coming around would wear a red waistband and hang an upside-down character “福” on the door or window during the New Year celebrations to ward off evils spirits. Now the waistband is a bit outdated, but red socks and underwear are still a very common way of dispel bad luck. So, don’t be surprised when you get red underwear or red socks wrapped in red paper with little “福” as a New Year gift.

To know about Chinese language and culture, view other blogposts of Hutong School.

Apply for a Chinese language program or for an Internship in China program, and join the New Year celebrations in China.

Zodiac vocabulary:


生肖 shēngxiào – Chinese Zodiac. Usage: 你属什么生肖?- 我属鸡。

过年guònián – to celebrate New Year. Usage: 她回家过年了。

fú – happiness. Usage:  他门上挂了一张“福”字。


本命年běnmìngnián – year of one’s birth sign. Usage:  从2017年1月28日开始,鸡猴者正好进入本命年。

立春lìchūn – the beginning of spring, the beginning of a new year. Usage: 中国以立春为春季的开始。

五行学说wǔxíng xuéshuō – five-element theory. Usage: 五行学说是古代汉族人民的哲学思想。


辟邪/避邪  bìxié – ward off evil spirits. Usage: 古埃及法老穿蓝色以辟邪。

厄运è’yùn – bad luck. Usage: 打破镜子会带来厄运。

沿袭yánxí – follow, carry on (an old custom). Usage: 随着时间的流逝,这一传统习俗沿袭下来,特别是在一些农村地区,农民们用这种方式祈求好的庄稼收成。