Back to Freepik Calendar

Chinese New Year and the Ancient Lunar Cycle

2 months and 2 days till the Chinese New Year, the year of the Dragon, takes center stage.

Welcome to the year of the rabbit 2023, the zodiac that will restore patience and responsibility to our reality. Landing on the new moon, January 22nd, Chinese New Year is bursting with ancient mysticism, superstitions, and traditions, from naming the years after animals to offering sacrificial sweets to the gods. It is the cause of the biggest mig... Show more

Total searches:

Data extracted from the Freepik search engine from the last year.


Chinese New Year themes and design resources


Chinese New Year and its mythical symbols

Chinese New Year Color Palette

  • HEX rgb(144, 0, 0)
  • RGB rgb(144, 0, 0)
  • CMYK rgb(144, 0, 0)
  • HSL rgb(144, 0, 0)
Download color palette

File available in .ASE format

Dark Red, the color of the warrior

This color runs deep, coursing its way through the veins of history. It is immediate in letting its presence known and can create a sense of deep fear amongst its audience. Ancient warriors of China would wear dark red to instill terror into their enemies, accompanied by a thundering battle cry, which must have been quite a sight. Dark red is the most abundant color in Chinese New Year, as the locals use this color to scare away evil spirits, including the infamous Nian monster. This dark undertone will be a strong backbone to your palette, providing stability and strength to your designs, helping achieve stunning themes for your Chinese New Year projects.

  • HEX rgb(217, 4, 22)
  • RGB rgb(217, 4, 22)
  • CMYK rgb(217, 4, 22)
  • HSL rgb(217, 4, 22)
Download color palette

File available in .ASE format

Venetian Red, the purest of reds

A pure, vibrant shade such as Venetian red is a fantastic choice for your Chinese New Year themes. This rich tone is packed with character and has been used through the centuries to enrich cultures from horizon to horizon. The hue communicates lust, fire, courage, and heroism, a perfect choice for a Chinese culture that has lasted thousands of years. Taking a lead role in your palette will bring definition to your designs in creating eye-catching creations themed around authentic Chinese culture. Red tones are very common around the Chinese New Year, as it is known to frighten away unwanted spirits, cleansing the local surroundings.

  • HEX rgb(217, 101, 39)
  • RGB rgb(217, 101, 39)
  • CMYK rgb(217, 101, 39)
  • HSL rgb(217, 101, 39)
Download color palette

File available in .ASE format

Tahiti Gold, a color of prosperity

When representing wealth and self-confidence, gold is the last stop! This darker tone of gold is a statement, a luxury, and provides us with empowerment and satisfaction, making for a fantastic element in your extravagant Chinese New Year design projects! When used respectively, it can provide exquisite results, adding intricate detail to invitations and banner designs. Furthermore, you can utilize such a color for your typography or calligraphy, resulting in an elegant display, especially so if written in mandarin. This hue will add great value to your projects while respecting the traditions of Chinese culture resulting in a functional Chinese New Year theme.

  • HEX rgb(242, 162, 12)
  • RGB rgb(242, 162, 12)
  • CMYK rgb(242, 162, 12)
  • HSL rgb(242, 162, 12)
Download color palette

File available in .ASE format

Gamboge, from the heart of the forest

This deeply traditional color from southeast Asia has its roots embedded in culture. The pigment has been used in traditional Chinese art, and Buddhist monks have been dipping their robes in it for centuries. Collecting the pigment is a long process, piercing the bark of a Genus Garcinia tree with bamboo and patiently awaiting each drip till satisfaction is reached. Smashed into a powder or mixed with water, the result is a rich deep saffron yellow, a perfect hue that will resonate with Chinese authentic styling. Perhaps it would work well to fill in a highly decorative border design or a fill for Chinese cymbals. Why not download the palette and give it a try?

  • HEX rgb(248, 211, 70)
  • RGB rgb(248, 211, 70)
  • CMYK rgb(248, 211, 70)
  • HSL rgb(248, 211, 70)
Download color palette

File available in .ASE format

Kournikova, the color of the morning sun

A soft variant of yellow is a fantastic tribute to your Chinese-themed projects. It has a glow that can remind you of the morning sun on an autumn day, providing a comforting feel, which can help to balance out your composition till it’s just right. On the other hand, it follows the authentic hues that capture the essence of traditional Chinese art, where soft and pale yellows are used in abundance. Give this hue a try for yourself! You might find yourself having a lot of fun pushing this color to its limits, finding its multiple personalities work in your favor in creating striking Chinese New Year design projects.


Chinese New Year and its origins, from the ancient to the present

It is incredible to think that a civilisation has the will to preserve an event such as this for more than three thousand years, still capturing the attention of the largest population on the planet. In this journey of a timeline, we will introduce to you the colorful origins, touching base on the story’s that helped gain its momentum, leading to its superstitious roots, capturing the imagination of a nation that has evolved with each fleeting century. The contrast of the old and new makes for a tale of survival as the world closes in with attempts to modernize its very foundations. So without further ado, let’s discover its tantalizing origins.

1600 to 1046 B.C.

The Shang Dynasty

One of the earliest Chinese dynasties

They brought mathematics and spirituality to the forefront of their daily lives, setting about the creation of the Lunisolar calendar and the first Chinese New Year. Ruling as far back as the bronze age, the Shang Dynasty ruled for over 500 years. Thanks to their development of astrology and mathematics, the Shang Dynasty developed the first lunar-based calendar thanks to a man named Wan-Nien, verified with the discovery of text inscribed on a tortoise shell! Later, a solar-based calendar was integrated into the Lunar calendar, meaning farmers could determine when to plant their crops. In addition, the first celebrations of New Year’s and the beginning of spring were born. Celebrations would include a sacrificial ceremony offering souls of prisoners to their god. The Lunisolar calendar is the longest-serving calendar in history and is still in use today.

1046 to 256 B.C.

The Zhou Dynasty

Farming their way into the history books

The Zhou people were a people of stability and cultural development, reigning the longest period in Chinese history. They rose to power after the overthrow of the Shang dynasty emperor, Zhou. With a new order in place, it sought to replenish the balance of society, bringing stability to the people, keeping most of the Shang way of life in place, such as its rich artisan culture. They also kept the ritualistic practices in play, paying homage to the gods and ancestors through honorary sacrifices. However, the real gains made by the Zhou Dynasty were that of its crop. They were making so much wealth out of farming that it generated political stability and a wealthy country as a whole. This drew in more focus on cultivation and would become a big focus on each New Year and Spring that went by, asking the gods and ancestors for a prosperous harvest for the year ahead. Obviously sacrifices played a major role in the event!

202 B.C. to 220 A.D.

The Han Dynasty

The official New Year’s date

It was the people of the Han Dynasty who set the official New Year’s date of the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar and had become more of a family occasion, staying up late and setting off the first fireworks ever to be seen! The Han Dynasty played a major role in expanding Chinese culture and influence. Looking towards the west, they established the famous trade-route, the Silk Road. Furthermore, the Han dynasty had undergone a shift in their religious practices, focusing more on nature in the form of Confucianism, the Chinese Zodiac was established and naming the years after animals became a thing! Instead of appeasing gods and ancestors, they would find spirituality and pursue cosmic harmony through ethics, morality, and self-worth. Family was also important, as they believed a strong family meant a stronger society. All this new way of thinking brought about drastic change to the way the Chinese celebrated New Year. The family would eat together, staying up long into the night, hanging peach wooden boards. Early versions of fireworks were also introduced. They were made from bamboo, which, when set on fire, created loud banging sounds as the trapped air would decompress and explode. This became an integral part of the government-sponsored celebrations to warn off evil spirits and the infamous mythical beast named Nian.

220 to 1911 A.D.

From the Wei to the Qing Dynasties

The modernizing of the Chinese Lunar New Year

In the time of the Wei and Jin Dynasties from 220 to 439 A.D., New Years was becoming more accepted amongst the common people of China, and with the government supporting the biggest parties ever, you can imagine the spectacle. It didn’t matter who you were or what you dressed in, it was a celebration for everyone. It was also customary to honor the senior members of the family kneeling down to eat with them, wearing traditional Zha-ran clothing enriched in exotic tie-dye patterns. It was now the turn of the Tang and Song Dynasties, who ruled between 618 to 1279 A.D. Celebrations were turning its back on worship and religious practices to a more energetic, social atmosphere. Public holidays were introduced too, which would lead to family members reuniting for the special occasion. One major factor was the invention of black gunpowder, which turned into the explosion of firecrackers! The Qing Dynasty, ruling from 1644 to 1911 A.D., gave the Lunar New Year celebration a name and called it Yuandan. The spectacle was becoming more modernized with the introduction of dragon dances, and people wondering about on stilts became a fun attraction to the already bright and energetic atmosphere. At this point it is becoming very familiar to what we see today.


Chinese New Year on the world stage

Chinese new year is now a global celebration, with pockets of Chinese influence felt around the globe. With globalization at its peak, we can see other regions of the world getting involved with the fireworks and the dragon dancing long into the night. Chinese are well-rehearsed for such a kinetic event, but how do other countries differ? Let’s take a look at some other Chinese New Year celebrations around the world.


Following Chinese traditions that go back as far as the Shang Dynasty, the celebration itself has developed into a colorful display of fun entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. The entire population of China, which makes up 20% of the world, participates in the biggest migration on the planet somewhere between the 20th of January and the 21st of February, as family members reunite. Families will eat together, honoring the god of the Kitchen and perhaps even offering a sweet sacrifice, usually something nice! Red envelopes filled with money or chocolate money for kids are delivered or handed to family and friends as a gesture of goodwill and prosperity. Keeping to old traditions, the hanging of red banners called spring couplets on the doorways of their homes carrying messages of prosperity and good luck for the year ahead. The real fun hits the streets, as the century’s old tradition of fireworks light up the night sky and dragon or lion dances create a hypnotizing atmosphere, bringing joy and kinetic energy to a proud people. The celebrations last for 15 days!


During the Lunar New Year, people in Singapore flock to China Town in the center of the city to indulge in Chinese culture. The streets and stores are decorated in vibrant red with a focus on the animal of that year. Thousands of Chinese lanterns light up the streets, attracting thousands to its stores each year. You can even purchase these lanterns in an attempt to not waste them away once used, making for a nice decoration for your home. You will get the chance to fill your bags with Chinese goods in preparation for a New Year to remember, buying gifts, decoration and traditional Chinese food to feast on with the family. Parades and stage performances are also commonplace, with the dragon or lion dance holding up Chinese traditions and folk stories for the whole family to enjoy, accompanied by an impressive firework display over the waterfront. The event is one to remember.


In Malaysia, about 25% of the population is of Chinese descent, which can only mean that the Chinese New Year is a big deal. Chinatown, located in the center of Kuala Lumpur, is the heart of the festival, dressing up its stores with the color red. In fact, pretty much everything is colored red to warn off the infamous beast named Nian. Chinese lanterns line the streets to light up the busy markets, providing a huge variety of Chinese and Malaysian cuisines, traditional and new, a delight for any food lover. Sharing many of the Chinese rituals, staying at home with the family is one of them. However, a Malaysian tradition is to share a giant platter of traditional food, with each dish on the platter representing well-being and prosperity. The whole family performs a toast and begins to mix all the food together, symbolizing unity and luck for the coming year. Red letters are also popular. Receiving a red envelope usually means there is money inside. 88 Malaysian ringgit represents good luck. However, 4 ringgit in the local language sounds like death and is perceived as bad luck!


Japan and Chinese relations go back a long way, and the fact they are neighbors has meant a lot of their cultural heritage overlaps along with their populations. With many of Japan’s citizens sharing descendants with China, there is much cause for celebrating the Chinese New Year. In 1873 Japan adjusted its calendar to the Solar-based Gregorian calendar. However, Japan still makes big efforts, showing support for the Lunar New Year celebrations they once shared with China. Around the end of January to early February, you may bear witness to a big clean-up operation, when families celebrating the event begin to clean their houses, in an attempt to dust out any evil spirits that may have accumulated over the previous year. It also signifies a new beginning. The Japanese love a good parade too! With dancing dragons and lions, firecrackers, and streets dressed in red, it is a 15-day celebration everybody can enjoy.

South Korea

China’s connection to South Korea is very strong, with centuries of shared culture. It comes as no surprise that they follow some similar ritualistic practices. The earliest records show the South Koreans would celebrate the Chinese lunar calendar as far back as the 7th century. However, in 1945, Japan’s influence over the region saw them adopt the Gregorian solar calendar, only to be shifted back to the traditional Lunar calendar thanks to public opinion in 1989. South Korea has somewhat branched away from the Chinese New Year, rather calling it their own. The holiday gives family members the chance to come together for the three days of celebration, performing an ancestral ritual called Charye and exchanging gifts and red envelopes filled with money. It is custom to dress in traditional hanbok clothing that is only worn for special events such as these. The Zodiac animals are a tradition shared by South Koreans and the Chinese. South Koreans believe that Budda let all the animals of the world into South Korea, but only 12 turned up, and were given the honor of naming each year! One fascinating South Korean custom is to build a house made of dry firewood called a Moon House, which is then set alight to warn off evil spirits and grant wishes.


The UK is home to almost half a million Chinese, establishing massively popular cultural hubs such as Chinatown in London and Manchester. With such an influx of Chinese influence, their food and medicine play an important role in a multicultural society. This influence and popularity point to a highly anticipated Chinese New Year, which is felt right across the country, with major cities like London, Manchester, and even Liverpool fighting for recognition as Europe’s biggest Chinese New Year celebrations. People of the UK indulge in all things Chinese, celebrating with a Chinese takeaway, perhaps cracking open a fortune cookie. Chinese lanterns are seen everywhere, and with a celebration propped up with an array of fireworks, it’s an impressive sight. Chinese families will look forward to their time shared together, perhaps even making the trip back to China to visit loved ones and sharing gifts and red envelopes filled with money!


The city of San Francisco, California is home to the oldest Chinese New Year celebration dating back to 1858 when a parade filled with Chinese drums, firecrackers and dragon dances dominated the streets. Today the celebration is not just a parade, but a week-long party sprouting from the city’s Chinatown. Decorations flood the streets in a vivid red, the sounds of beating drums and smells of authentic Chinese food will make you question where you really are. With 5 million people in the US identifying as Chinese, it is a titanic event. The city claiming the biggest celebration is New York, with nearly every borough hosting its own party the entire city seems to come alive waking the dragon! The main event is held in Manhattan’s Chinatown where performances and parades make for an engagement that attracts thousands of tourists each year.