Chinese New Year
Eat. Drink. Wish.
Also known as “Spring Festival” in China, Chinese New Year is a Chinese holiday marked by lavish festivals celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. Chinese New Year celebrations take place from the evening before the first day and end with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first calendar month.
Chinese New Year celebrations originated in ancient times when villagers would flee to the mountains to hide from the monster Nian that would haunt the village on New Year’s Eve. Then one old man scared away the monster by pasting red papers on doors, making loud noises with fire (before firecrackers), lighting candles inside houses, and wearing red clothes. From then on, the villagers did as the old man did every New Year’s Eve, which became an important way to celebrate the New Year.
Chinese New Year celebrations last for about 23 days. They begin on the evening before the first day and end with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month.
Chinese New Year begins on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month of the Chinese calendar (January) and end on the 15th day of the first lunar month (February).
Traditional Chinese New Year foods include dumplings and spring rolls, long noodles, fish, and oranges. These foods are considered lucky and symbolize certain virtues to live by in the New Year.
Chinese people greet each other with many different sayings during the Chinese New Year, wishing each other health, prosperity, and happiness. Greetings include, “Good Luck For This Dog Year” (gǒunián jíxiáng), “Happy New Year “ (Xīnnián hǎo), and “Wish you…” (Zhu nín...) when greeting elders.
Chinese New Year gifts are given in the form of red envelopes filled with money. The color red symbolizes good luck. It is considered impolite to open a red envelope in front of the person who gifts it.
The Chinese New Year celebration ends with a lantern festival on the 15th day of the first day of the lunar month. The festival features the lighting of lanterns, extravagant decorations, traditional foods, fireworks, and dragon dances.
On New Year’s Day, Chinese people usually wear the color red as a symbol of good luck. Other bright colors are also worn, but never black or white.
Red envelopes filled with money are the traditional gifts given during Chinese New Year. These envelopes are usually given from parents or grandparents to kids. Many gifts are considered taboo, so it’s best to stick with the colors red, yellow, and gold.
The first day of Chinese New Year is known as Yuan Dan, and falls on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month of the Chinese calendar.
The color red is used during Chinese New Year because it symbolizes good luck. The color red corresponds with fire, which is used to ward off evil spirits.
The lion dance is performed on special occasions, including the Lantern Festival during Chinese New Year celebrations. In ancient times, the lion was considered a mythical creature because there were no real lions seen in China. The dance is performed to pray for good luck.
Many foods eaten during Chinese New Year celebrations are considered lucky because of their pronunciation or appearance resembling a symbol of luck. Fresh bean curd or tofu, however, is considered unlucky because it is white, which is a color that signifies death and misfortune.
When attending a family dinner during Chinese New Year, it’s important to follow proper dining etiquette. For example, don’t stick chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice because it symbolizes death and bad luck. Also, eat with your mouth closed, don’t start eating before the host, and serve someone else first before serving yourself.