To understand Chinese New Year traditions, we need to first understand the commonly used terms during Chinese New Year.
Red Envelope or Hong Bao
Red envelope is the most popular gift for Chinese New Year. It is also called “lai see” in Cantonese. The Red Envelop has money in it, which ranges from one to a few thousand Chinese Yuan. It is the money given to kids from their parents and grandparents as New Year gift. The money is believed to bring good luck, ward off monsters; hence the name “lucky money”. Traditionally, only married people are qualified to give red envelopes. Red envelopes are given in many other occasions like birthday and birth as well since they symbolize luck.
Family Reunion Dinner
Just like Christmas family dinner, family reunion dinner normally hosted by the parents to bring the whole family together. It is the most important banquet of the year. People will bring out the best dishes and best drinks on the table and chat what happened during the year
Couplets or Dui Lian
Every family has New Year Dui Lian. It is a pair of lines of poetry, usually hand written or printed on red paper and pasted on the front door. Generally, Dui Lian is composed of two antithetical sentences on both sides of the door. The two sentences correspond in their metrical length and some properties of each character, such as meaning and tone. The couplets are read from top to bottom and the first line starts from the right.
Shou Sui ( New Year Count Down)
Shousui is a tradition to stay up late on New Year’s Eve and wait for the New Year to come. Many families will watch CCTV (China Central Television) Spring Festival Show while waiting. This tradition has changed a lot over the years since many young people would rather go out and have party with friends rather than staying at home.
New Year Greetings ( Bai Nian )
This is the best part of Chinese New Year in my option. During Chinese New Year holidays, Chinese visit their friends and relatives. It is a great way to catch up with people. With internet, many people do the greetings online for the remote friends and relative.
Chinese invented gun power. Gun power was first used in firework thousands year ago. Local governments spend lots of money on the firework for Chinese New Year. On Chinese New year eve or the beginning of the Chinese New Year, local government will put up spectacular firework shows for local residents.
There are many different traditions observed over the New Year period, here are some of our favourites:
- Clean your house before New Year to get rid of any bad luck from the previous year and to make room for good luck.
- Decorate your house with apricot and peach blossom, symbolic of new beginnings and sold during Vietnamese Tet.
- Settle all debts before New Year, and do not borrow or lend money over New Year.
- For good health and a long life eat oranges and tangerines and for happiness and wealth eat persimmons.
- Do not cut your hair or use sharp knives or scissors on New Year’s Day as you may cut off good fortune.
- Wear red to scare away evil spirits and bad fortune.
- At midnight on New Year open all the doors and windows in your house to let go of the old year.
- Give red envelopes to friends and family for good luck and prosperity.
- When you meet people you should greet them with “Happy New Year” to bring good fortune and prosperity
- Wear new clothes on New Year’s Day and be on your best behaviour, as actions on this day set the tone for the year to follow.
- Enjoy a new year banquet, keeping an empty seat to symbolise the presence of family members who can’t be there.
- Eat fish on the eve of Chinese New Year, and keep some stored for the next day. The Chinese phrase “may there be surpluses every year” sounds the same as “may there be fish every year”.
- Enjoy a bowl of traditional Korean duk gook, a soup of thinly sliced rice cakes, to represent a clean start to the new year.
- Serve uncut noodles as they represent longevity.
- Say farewell to the Kitchen God, the guardian of the family hearth. As he reports to heaven on the behaviour of the family over the past year, make sure to feed him sweet foods and honey, either as a bribe, or to seal his mouth and prevent him from saying bad things.