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There is a rich tapestry of customs and traditions associated with the Lunar New Year. Let’s take a look at some of the most well-known Chinese New Year traditions.

1. Cleaning Home

Before the Spring Festival begins, people take to giving their home a big deep clean. It is a symbolic sweep of bad luck from the previous year. 

As you cleanse your home of bad luck and any bad feeling that may have been there in the year before, you are sweeping the place clean, ready to embrace good luck in the coming year.

2. Decorating Home

Once the home has been cleansed of bad luck, the next thing to do is to decorate the home. Chinese families take to decorating their homes using the primary colour of the festival – red. 

Red is the national colour of China, representing good luck, good fortune, success, vitality, beauty, and happiness. A big Chinese New Year tradition is the hanging of red Chinese lanterns in the streets and outside homes. 

For the month running up to Chinese New Year, public spaces will be decorated red, whilst in domestic homes, families will traditionally decorate on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

3. A big dinner reunion with family

The big Chinese New Year tradition is to be with your family and loved ones. This is the time where everyone comes together again, and Chinese New Year’s Eve is the most important part of the entire festival for family time. 

The big dinner on New Year’s Eve is called ‘reunion dinner’ and is the most important meal of the entire year in Chinese custom. 

You’ll have massive families of several generations all around the table, catching up with each other, telling stories, and enjoying a real feast of food. 

Families will sit together after the meal and wait for the arrival of the New Year in the same way that the Western World celebrates New Year’s Eve in its calendar and traditions.

4. Offer sacrifices to ancestors

To pay respect to dead family members and ancestors, sacrifices are offered as part of Chinese New Year traditions. It is believed that the spirits of ancestors are with us, protecting family members and helping them to become prosperous.

Offering sacrifices on New Year’s Eve and throughout the festivities is a way of paying back to family. Before the reunion dinner for example, families will worship their ancestors, allowing them to ‘eat first’. 

Visits to the grave or shrine include offerings of joss paper, joss sticks, and even meat and wine. 

Tombs are swept in the same way that homes are swept and cleaned at this time of year in preparation for New Year.

5. Fireworks and firecrackers

One of the most famous Chinese New Year traditions is the setting off of firecrackers. Billions of fireworks are set off at midnight and for the first few minutes of the New year, in the same way that other New Year celebrations around the world celebrate, but firecrackers are a uniquely Chinese New Year custom. 

From small-scale family celebrations on the doorsteps of homes, to the big gatherings of Chinese communities celebrating, you can expect the noise of firecrackers from the moment New Year arrives.

6. Exchanging gifts and red envelopes

New Year is the time where gifts are exchanged amongst the family. It is the biggest celebration of the year and gifts are kindly given. 

The most common gifts are red envelopes with money inside. These are traditionally given to children and older, retired people in the family. 

Red, as we have seen, is the colour of good luck. When handing someone a red envelope as a gift you are wishing them luck and prosperity, with the money inside meant to help you towards this new prosperity in the New Year and for the future. 

In recent years, as technology has improved, we’ve seen the proliferation of ‘red envelopes’ sent in App form on mobile phones! 

There are other traditional gifts given during Chinese New Year, including fruits, candles, alcohol, and tea.

7. Dragon and lion dances

You’ll most probably have seen the traditional Chinese dragon dances at some point in your life. They are truly spectacular, with dancers and performers, puppets and magical dragons and lions dancing as part of a procession through the streets. This is widely seen throughout Chinese New Year celebrations and other cultural and religious festivals in China throughout the year. 

Lion and dragon dances are again, meant to bring prosperity and good luck for the coming year.

8. Oranges and Tangerines play a prominent role

One of the most common Chinese New Year traditions involved the presence of oranges and tangerines. 

They are believed to bring good luck and fortune due to the pronunciation and characters. 

The Chinese word for orange and tangerine is 橙 (chéng /chnng), which has a similar sound to ‘success’, whilst you can write tangerine as 桔 (jú /jyoo) which includes the Chinese character for luck (吉 jí /jee/). 

During the whole festivities of Chinese New Year, you’ll see oranges and tangerines everywhere.


This article is brought to you by wearehomesforstudents, Matthew King.

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