Rome welcomes the Year of the Fire Rooster

Rome's Chinese new year returns for the seventh time.

On 28 January 2017, the centre of Rome saw a colourful and cheerful festival that celebrated the first day of the lunar year, according to the traditional Chinese calendar.

Acrobats, martial artists, drummers and colourful lion dancers paraded through Via del Corso and arrived at Piazza del Popolo by 15.00, where a stage was waiting for them and their following crowd in order to continue the celebrations.

Italian families, tourists, and expats gathered at Piazza del Popolo to admire an afternoon of Chinese cultural display that did not fail to entertain and inform the public about their millenary traditions. The Chinese New Year celebration continued to attract people to the centre of Rome until the sun set, after which the party was concluded with a generous demonstration of fireworks that had everyone looking up toward Villa Borghese for several shiny minutes. The Chinese New Year party was celebrated in Rome for the seventh consecutive year.

Why the 28 January 2017?

Chinese traditions follow the lunar calendar. Differently from the solar calendar, which marks every New Year passage on midnight of 31 December, a lunar year's start and end is set by various astrological phenomena, such as the moon phases, which happen on different dates every year.

More specifically, the lunar calendar's passage into a New Year happens when the new moon is at the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. In 2017 this midpoint happened on 28 January. The new lunar year therefore also marks the beginning of spring, and that is why the Chinese New Year party is often called the spring festival. The current lunar year will end on 15 February 2018.

The Year of the Fire Rooster

The Chinese zodiac is represented by 12 animals. In a repeating cycle, each represents one entire lunar year. The rooster is the zodiac animal that represents the lunar year that has just begun. The last year of the rooster therefore was 2005, and the next will be 2029.

In addition to the zodiac animals, every year in the Chinese tradition is also associated with one of five elements (metal, wood, water, fire, or earth), which also rotate in a cycle. 2017 is the year of the combination 'fire rooster'. Each element-animal combination only repeats itself every 60 years.

According to Chinese traditions, the zodiac representation of the year has great impact over our personalities and over that year's events. With that in mind, note for 2017 that some of the main characteristics associated with the fire rooster are reliability, punctuality, and responsibility.

Chinese New Year Tale

Rumour has it that a very long time ago in China there was a terrifying monster that enjoyed scaring people once a year on the night of the darkest moon. One day, a sage old man told the crying villagers that there were three things that scared the monster: the colour red, loud noises, and fire. The next year, on the night of the darkest moon, the villagers decided to unite and fight back against the monster. People wore red from head to toe, spent the night playing loud drums, and lit all candles, lanterns and fireworks that they could gather. That night, when the monster arrived at the village and saw all the things that scared him put together, he suffered such a shock that he never dared to go back to that village ever again. From then on, the villagers celebrated their victory and started using those three elements to celebrate the New Year on that night of the new moon.

Paula Berner Magalhaes