Lunar New Year 2024: Year of the Dragon | Chinese New Year | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Lunar New Year 2024: The Year of the Dragon

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What Is the Lunar New Year? What is a Chinese Zodiac Sign?

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Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year) happens this year on Saturday, February 10, 2024. This year ushers in the year of the Dragon! What is the Lunar New Year, and who celebrates this holiday? What does the dragon symbolize, and what is your special animal symbol? Learn more.

When Is the Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year begins on the date (in East Asia) of the second new Moon after the winter solstice, which always occurs in late December. This means that the first day of the Lunar New Year can occur anytime between January 21 and February 20. 

In 2024, the second new Moon will occur in China on Saturday, February 10, marking the start of a new lunar year.

YearLunar New YearChinese Zodiac Sign
2024Saturday, February 10Dragon
2025Wednesday, January 29Snake
2026Tuesday, February 17Horse
2027Sunday, February 7Goat

(Note: Due to the difference in time zones, the new Moon may technically occur one calendar date earlier or later in the United States. See our Moon Phase Calendar for local times.)

lunar new year infographic

Why Are There Different New Years?

The traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar based on astronomical observations of the Sun’s position in the sky and the Moon’s phases. This ancient calendar dates back to the 14th century BCE (whereas the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582). The Chinese lunisolar calendar shares some similarities with the Hebrew calendar, which is also lunisolar, and it has influenced other East Asian calendars, such as those of Korea and Vietnam. 

Because the Chinese calendar defines the lunar month containing the winter solstice as the 11th month, the Lunar New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice.

Just like New Year according to the Gregorian calendar (January 1), Lunar New Year celebrations start on the night before the first day of the new year. 

(Note: China follows the Gregorian calendar for daily business but still follows the Chinese calendar for important festivals, auspicious dates such as wedding dates, and the Moon phases.) 

Who Celebrates Lunar New Year?

Although this holiday is commonly called “Chinese New Year” in the West, China is not the only country to observe it. Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the most celebrated and longest of all Asian festivals and is observed by millions of people worldwide.

Many other countries in East Asia, including Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines, hold their own New Year celebrations at this time. (Occasionally, the date celebrated may differ by one day or even one moon cycle due to time zones and other factors.)

How Is the Lunar New Year Celebrated?

As with many winter solstice celebrations, the symbolic darkness of night is banished by the light of fireworks, lanterns, and candles. Man-made paper lanterns are hung by the hundreds in public areas, bringing good luck to the new year.

There are dragon dances, performances, and festival parades with music and acrobatics. The festivities continue for two weeks, finishing with a special lantern festival, which signals the end of the New Year celebration period.

Chinese Zodiac dragon on a lake at lunar new year

Of course, much delicious food is made and served! For the New Year, it’s traditional to serve long noodles, symbolizing a long life. See our recipe for Longevity Noodles.

 Longevity Noodles

Another popular recipe for New Year is Chinese Dumplings, symbolizing good luck and wealth. Families wrap them up and eat them as the clock strikes midnight.

“Good Luck” is also a common theme of the New Year. Many children receive “lucky money” in red envelopes. Sometimes, offerings are made to temples. 

People clean their homes and open their doors to let good luck enter. According to tradition, no one should pick up a broom in case you sweep the good luck for the New Year out of the door!

What Is the Animal for Chinese New Year This Year?

In 2024, we ring in the Year of the Dragon, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. The animal designations of the zodiac follow a 12-year cycle and are always used in the same sequence.

What Qualities Does the Dragon Represent?

Those born in the Year of the Dragon are believed to be ambitious, energetic, and charismatic, often inspiring others with their passion and enthusiasm. They are considered to be natural leaders, confident and unafraid to take risks, making them magnetic personalities in social and professional circles.

Chinese's Dragon Year of the Ink Painting, translation: dragon.
Image courtesy of Viktoria Bykova

How the Chinese Zodiac Works

The traditional Chinese lunisolar year has 12 months and 353 to 355 days (or during a leap year, 13 months and 383 to 385 days).

Therefore, the Chinese year usually begins several weeks into the Western 365-day year (usually between January 21 and February 20), not on January 1 of the Gregorian calendar.

As is ancient tradition, the Chinese zodiac attaches animal signs to each lunar year in a cycle of 12 years. The animal designation changes at the start of the New Year.

A Deeper Look

On a broader scale, the Chinese lunisolar calendar counts its years according to the stem-branch system, a 60-year rotating name system also known as the Chinese sexagenary cycle. By this, a year’s name contains two parts: the celestial stem and the terrestrial branch.

  • The celestial, or heavenly stem, is taken from a rotating list of 10 terms concerning the yin/yang forms of five elements.
  • The Stem (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water): jia, yi, bing, ding, wu, ji, geng, xin, ren, and gui


jia = yang wood
yi = yin wood
bing = yang fire
ding = yin fire
wu = yang earth
ji = yin earth
geng = yang metal
xin = yin metal
ren = yang water
gui = yin water

  • The terrestrial, or earthly, branch is taken from a rotating list of the 12 animal names of the Chinese zodiac. 


zi = rat
chou = ox
yin = tiger
mao = rabbit
chen = dragon
si = snake
wu = horse
wei = sheep/goat
shen = monkey
you = rooster
xu = dog
hai - boar/pig

So, putting the stem and branch terms together, the first year in a 60-year cycle is called jia-zi (Year of the Rat) as jia is the celestial stem and zi (rat) is the terrestrial branch. The next year is yi-chou (Year of the Ox), and so on. The 11th year is jia-xu, etc., until a new cycle starts over with jia-zi.

Learn all about YOUR Chinese Zodiac Sign.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann