Chinese New Year, also called Lunar New Year or the Chinese Spring Festival, holds the most significant position among all Chinese festivals and holidays. It lasts for the first fifteen days of the Chinese lunar calendar, which on the Western calendar begins sometime between January 21 and February 21, varying from year to year. The celebration includes decorations, parades, folk traditions, and a wonderful feast. If you want to participate in the celebrations, there are many things you can do to join the festivities and to pay homage to Chinese traditions.
Preparing for the Holiday
Clean your home.
This tradition is founded in the belief that cleaning the house at this time of year will “sweep away the bad luck” that has accumulated inside over the past year. Cleaning also makes the house ready for the good luck to start entering again.
Keeping fresh and hygienic is also an important part of celebrating; even a new haircut will do.
Don’t clean your home after the New Year has started. To do so is to “sweep away” the good luck you’ve just received. Over the following fifteen days, or at least the first few if you can’t wait that long, you are relieved of cleaning duties.
Put up red decorations.
Red is the color or symbol of good luck in Chinese culture and is often used for new year decorations. The number “8” also symbolizes good luck and wealth, since the Chinese character for eight rhymes with fortune or wealth.
Paste paper cutouts onto the window. These elaborate cutouts usually depict scenes from rural life or Chinese mythology, and are traditionally put up on south and north facing windows.
Display Chinese New Year paintings and artwork. Traditionally, these contain images of health and bounty, including animals and fruit. You could include a “door god” image on your door, traditionally to fight off evil spirits and bless your house.
Hang up couplets as decoration. You can write spring-themed couplets yourself or buy Chinese calligraphy printed on red paper.
Decorate with paper lanterns. These are made of red paper and are one of the most common decorations during Chinese New Year.
Arrange additional decorations.
Complement the crafts and artwork with bowls of food, flowers, and other treats.
Place flowers through the house, such as lotuses. Lotus flowers symbolize rebirth and new growth.
Place mandarin oranges in bowls throughout the house. Mandarins with their leaves still intact are the fruits of happiness for the New Year. Use an even number and eat in pairs for good luck.
Set out a tray of eight candies. Eight is a lucky number. You can use any treats for your tray, or traditional Chinese candies made from lotus seeds, longan, peanuts, coconut, red melon seed, or candied melon.
Celebrating Chinese New Year
Dress for the occasion
If you have traditional Chinese clothing, this is the perfect time to wear it. Outfits can be purchased in Chinatown, including beautiful silk clothing. Associated with joy, happiness, good luck, wealth and good fortune, red clothes will ensure that you’re fully participating in the spirit of the celebrations. Gold is another suitable color; try combining the two for a festive look.
Set off firecrackers
Set off fireworks at midnight when the New Year begins. The firecrackers used in China and Hong Kong are loud, banging fireworks that are mostly lit on the ground. The loud noises are thought to scare the bad spirits away, to prevent them from bringing bad luck.
Give gifts of money in red envelopes
Adults give lucky envelopes of money to children during this holiday. Sometimes they are given to employees or friends as well.
Honor your ancestors
Show gratitude and respect for what your ancestors have done for you. There are many traditional customs associated with this if you choose to follow them, such as bowing to a shrine dedicated to them or offering them food and drink as a sacrifice.