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With the Chinese New Year just around the corner, this article takes a look at some of the renowned traditions and customs at this time of year.
Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is the most important traditional festival in Chinese culture. It marks the beginning of a new year on the lunar calendar and is a time of reunion, celebration, and ancient rituals aimed at ensuring good luck, health, and prosperity for the coming year.
Learn more about the customs and traditions that make Chinese New Year a vibrant and deeply significant celebration.
The Significance of Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is not just a time to welcome a new year but also a moment for family reunions. It is the longest public holiday in China, allowing people to travel home and spend time with their loved ones over the Lunar month. The festival’s atmosphere is imbued with the spirit of renewal, as families clean their houses to sweep away bad fortune and make way for incoming good luck.
Each Chinese New Year is associated with one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac signs, which cycles through a 12-year period
These animals, including the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig, are believed to influence the characteristics of the year and those people born in it. This years Zodiac animal is the Year of the Dragon.
Traditional Customs of Chinese New Year
The New Year celebrations span 15 days, till the full moon. On the last day, a large celebration known as the Lantern Festival takes place, with children taking to the streets in the evening holding paper lanterns, creating a festive mood.
Chinese lanterns are typically red to represent good luck and family reunion which is an important part of this time of year and has been for thousands of years. On this day, people also consume traditional meal, glutinous rice balls known as ‘Tang Yuan’.
Spring Cleaning and Decoration
Before the festivities begin, Chinese families participate in a thorough cleaning of their homes. This tradition, known as “sweeping the dust,” symbolises the removal of the old and welcoming the new.
Following the cleaning, homes are decorated with red lanterns, couplets, and paper cuttings. Red, symbolising good fortune and joy, dominates the decorations, reflecting the hope for a prosperous year ahead.
The Reunion Dinner
On the eve of Chinese New Year, families gather for the reunion dinner, a feast rich in symbolism
Dishes served during this meal are chosen for their auspicious meanings, such as fish (symbolising abundance), dumplings (resembling gold ingots), and glutinous rice cakes (representing a higher year). This meal is a manifestation of familial unity and blessings for the year to come.
Red Envelopes: Exchanging Wishes of Prosperity
One of the most cherished traditions is the giving of red envelopes, or “hongbao,” which contain money. These are typically given to children and unmarried adults by the elder family members.
The red envelopes are not just monetary gifts but symbolic gestures of passing on good fortune and blessings from the older generation to the younger.
Fireworks and Dragon Dances
The Chinese New Year celebration is renowned for its spectacular fireworks displays and lively dragon dances, with many people celebrating the dances. In Chinese society, fireworks are believed to ward off evil spirits and attract good luck, while the dragon dance or lion dance in some part of China, performed by a team manipulating a long dragon figure, symbolises power, wisdom, and good fortune. These vibrant displays are a staple in festivities, adding to the jubilant atmosphere of the New Year.
Preserving Traditions and Embracing the Future
While deeply rooted in history, Chinese New Year customs continue to evolve, blending tradition with modernity. The essence of the festival – fostering family bonds, honouring ancestors, and welcoming a prosperous new year – remains unchanged. As we celebrate Chinese New Year, we embrace not only a rich cultural heritage but also the universal aspirations for happiness, health, and good fortune warding off bad luck.
Celebrating Chinese New Year offers a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Chinese culture, with its vibrant customs and profound symbolism. Whether through the simple act of sharing a meal or the elaborate performances of dragon dances, each tradition contributes to the festival’s deep emotional resonance, uniting families and communities in a shared hope for the future.
At Tavex, we are wishing all those celebrating a very happy new year filled with hope and prosperity.
1) Does gold have any significance during Chinese New Year?
Yes, gold has rich symbolism in Chinese New Year. To find out more about this take a look here.