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Chinese New Year: Traditions, Celebrations, and Food

7 min
Uploaded on
Dec 13, 2023
Last updated on
Jan 19, 2024
Uploaded on
Dec 13, 2023
Last updated on
Jan 19, 2024
Chinese New Year: Traditions, Celebrations, Food, and Festivals
Gong Hey Fat Choy!

Chinese New Year is one of the cherished celebrations filled with captivating folklore, delectable meals, jubilant dances and the embrace of traditional attire. It is also referred to as the Spring Festival, and people pay homage to deities and ancestors while cherishing moments with family and friends. Want to know more about the captivating traditions associated with this New Year in China, then keep reading this blog.

What is Chinese New Year?

One of the most solemn festivals of the year, Chinese New Year, is all about Chinese folk stories, scrumptious feasts, drinks, dance, and traditional costumes. The Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival. It is a time to honour deities and ancestors and to spend time with loved ones. It is about removing the bad and old days, welcoming the new, exorcising evil spirits, and praying for a good harvest. The Chinese New Year is a festival that is celebrated for 15 days with great pomp! Commencing on a new moon, the celebration lasts up till the next full moon. The 2024 Chinese New Year date is the 10th of February, and the Chinese Lunar New Year 2024 is the year of the Dragon. 

Leading up to the New Year, there's a buzz of excitement as many people travel to be with their families. It's called Chun Yun or "Moving in the Spring." Millions of folks use public transport or their rides to go home and celebrate with their loved ones. Students also make their New Year resolutions to boost their upcoming year with happiness and growth. So, get ready to experience the joy of family and togetherness during the fantastic Chinese New Year.

History of the Chinese New Year

The origins of the Chinese New Year go back to the legend of Nian, a terrifying beast. It is said that Nian used to attack the villagers and eat livestock at the beginning of every new year. To scare him away, people lit candles, burned bamboo, displayed red paper, and wore red clothes. Every Chinese New Year is a year of a specific Zodiac. It was said that an emperor organised a race where animals were asked to compete, and the first 12 winners were selected to be in the New Chinese Year Calendar. The people of China joyously celebrate the arrival of the year with a tapestry of traditions that have been cherished and handed down through the generations.  

How To Celebrate Chinese New Year?

During this time, people do lots of cool things to say goodbye to the old memories and welcome the new opportunities. It's not just in China - Chinese communities all over the world join in the fun with awesome activities like Lion and Dragon dances, temple fairs, and colourful flower markets. Before the big day, folks clean their homes and decorate with red decorations, lanterns, and new stuff. 

1. Cleaning and Decorating The House

The year begins with a deep cleaning of the house. It is to remove any bad luck from the previous year. People will do the cleaning until the Lunar New Year, and not on that day, as they believe it brings good luck and fortune. Chinese people decorate their homes using the primary colour of the festival, which is red. For the Chinese, red signifies good fortune, luck, vitality, and prosperity. 

2. Offering Sacrifices To Ancestors

The day of the Chinese New Year is marked by offering sacrifices to ancestors to honour them and seek their blessings. It is believed that the ancestors protect their descendants and help them become prosperous. People visit the graves of their ancestors and offer joss paper, joss sticks, and even meat and wine. 

3. Reunion Dinner With Family And Friends

It's a time when families unite to enjoy each other's company and savour the flavours of traditional Chinese dishes, such as Noodles, Dumplings, Spring Rolls, Fish and Nian Gao (a sweet rice cake).

4. Exchanging Gifts and Red Envelopes

People exchange gifts such as candles, food combos and hampers, fruit baskets, tea packets, and alcohol with family and friends. Elders give a red envelope, called Ya Sui Qian, to children containing money. The Chinese New Year envelopes symbolise good luck, health, growth, and prosperity for the year ahead. You can learn more about Chinese red envelopes by reading our article on The Story of Chinese Red Envelopes

5. Wear New Clothes

Getting a refreshed wardrobe is another highlighting factor of Chinese New Year traditions. People buy new everyday clothes to symbolise a new start and attract good luck. Some people also get new traditional clothes such as Hanfu, Cheongsam, Tang Suits, and Zhongshan Suits.

6. Prepare a Chuen Hap

It's customary to have a Chuen Hap, a snack box symbolising 'togetherness' and 'perfection.' This box, with an odd number of compartments, contains auspicious treats, including eight traditional sweets like candied lotus seeds for fertility and winter melon candy for a good year. Other savoury delights like melon seeds, deep-fried sesame balls, and you gok (deep-fried dumplings) are included.

7. Visit Che Kung Temple

In addition to Wong Tai Sin Temple, numerous residents of Hong Kong make it a tradition to visit Che Kung Temple in Sha Tin during the second and third days of this New Year. There, they engage in worship, burn incense, draw fortune sticks, and rotate the copper windmill clockwise to invite good luck.

Things to Avoid on Chinese New Year 2024

Chinese people follow certain things that should be avoided over their Chinese New Year period. Here are a few Chinese New Year don'ts:

1. There is a belief that hanging your clothes out to dry on New Year's Eve may attract evil spirits and bring in bad luck. 

2. Carefully select your attire and steer clear of the colours black and white, as they are commonly linked with sorrow and mourning. 

3. The Chinese people believe cutting or changing hair on New Year's Eve means throwing or washing away your fortune.

4. Some individuals opt to refrain from consuming meat on New Year's Day, as it's seen as inappropriate to harm animals on the first day of the year. Similarly, it's suggested to avoid congee and medication, too.

5. The word 'book' in Chinese is pronounced the same as the word lose. Buying or giving books is a big no-no as it is believed to bring bad luck. 

For the people who want to follow their passion for reading, check out our blog on the best websites for cheap textbooks to make sure there's no hindrance in your reading process. 

Chinese people believe that saying good things, being on one's best behaviour, performing generous acts, and avoiding fights will bring good luck for the rest of the year. So watch what you say and do during the Lunar New Year, and be kinder and more giving.

Traditional Chinese New Year Celebrations

There are various traditional Chinese New Year Festivals that are popular in different regions of the country. Below are some of the Chinese New Year Celebrations:

1. Magnificent Lion and Dragon Dances  

The spectacular lion and dragon dances are sure to entice your eyes. The streets of China glow with impressive processions of dancers, performers, puppets, magical dragons and lions. Lions are symbols of luck and happiness, and dragons symbolise bravery and power; the dances ward off evil energies and attract good luck and prosperity.

2. Festive Gatherings at Temples

Where the community revels in traditional performances, purchases handmade crafts, and indulges in delightful snacks. These fairs serve as a meaningful time for people to come together, fostering a sense of unity and shared celebration. 

3. Use of Red

It holds significant cultural importance, symbolising good luck and protection against evil spirits. Streets, homes, and businesses adorned with red lanterns and couplets create a vibrant and optimistic atmosphere, emphasising the cultural richness of the celebration.

4. Display of Fireworks and Firecrackers

Beyond the visual appeal, it holds the purpose of dispelling any lingering negativity and embracing the New Year with a resounding and joyful welcome. In essence, Chinese New Year celebrations amalgamate these lively traditions to bring about not just happiness but also a positive and encouraging start to the year for the entire community.

Popular Chinese New Year Traditions

Traditional Chinese New Year Food

During Chinese New Year's Eve dinner, families come together to enjoy special foods that hold meaning and bring good luck. 

1. Jiaozi

In the Northern parts, like Beijing, people really like eating dumplings called "Jiaozi." These are small, delicious pockets filled with different things like meat, seafood, or veggies. 

2. Laba Congee

In the North, they enjoy Laba Congee, a dish made with rice, beans, peanuts, and more. It represents the harvest from the past year. 

3. Nian Gao

Down south, folks prefer Nian Gao, a cake made with sticky rice and sugar. It's thought to bring growth and promise a better year. 

4. Tang Yuan

Sweet rice balls called Tang Yuan are a hit, too. Shaped like ping-pong balls, they're filled with sweet stuff like beans or nuts and eaten with soup. 

Dumplings are a big deal, signifying wealth and prosperity. Fish dishes are also popular because they're linked to having more than enough. Sticky rice cake, Nian Gao, is all about progress and hoping for a better year. Oranges and tangerines add a touch of sweetness, good luck and wealth. It's a time for family, good wishes, and sharing moments.

Lantern Festival

The celebrations of Chinese New Year 2024 end with the Lantern Festival on the 24th of February 2024. Commenced 2000 years ago, it is also known as Yuan Xiao and has developed many meanings over the years. The lantern festival encourages people to celebrate family reunions and also promotes spiritual traditions. Back in the day, many women were not allowed to go out of the house, so during the lantern festival, everybody, irrespective of their gender or age, could stroll through the streets, light lanterns, etc. The Chinese New Year lanterns symbolise letting go of past selves and starting fresh. The Chinese New Year lanterns also symbolise good fortune.

In the end, it is a timeless celebration that weaves together the threads of traditions and modernity. As families gather to cleanse their homes of any misfortunes, the vibrant red colour adorns the streets, the sounds of laughter and the aroma of delicious food fill the air. The night sky is lit with beautiful displays of lights and colour; we see a beautiful amalgamation of the past, present, and the future. If you are in China, attend the Chinese New Year celebrations and immerse yourself in China's harmonious and rich culture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some Chinese New Year traditions?

What are the traditional Chinese cuisines that people eat on Chinese New Year?

Which zodiac is the Chinese New Year 2024?

What is the meaning behind Chinese New Year customs?

Why are the Chinese New Year celebrations marked by the colour red?

Chinese New Year: Traditions, Celebrations, and Food
7 min
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