Chinese New Year Customs

Chinese New Year is more than just the delicious snacks

Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is sometimes called the Lunar New Year, especially by people outside China. The festival traditionally begins on the first day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar and ends on the 15th; this day is called Lantern Festival.

This year of 2010, the first day of Chinese New Year coincidentally falls on 14th February Valentine’s Day.

The Spring Festival is the most important festival for the Chinese people and is when all family members get together, just like Christmas in the West. All people living away from home go back, becoming the busiest time for transportation systems of about half a month from the Spring Festival.

new year deco

Bright and red decorations can be seen in homes and malls


Many customs accompany the Spring Festival. Some are still followed today.

House Cleaning

The entire house should be cleaned before New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dust pans and other cleaning equipment are put away. Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year’s Day for fear that good fortune will be swept away. After New Year’s Day, the floors may be swept. Beginning at the door, the dust and rubbish are swept to the middle of the parlor, then placed in the corners and not taken or thrown out until the fifth day. At no time should the rubbish in the corners be trampled upon. In sweeping, there is a superstition that if you sweep the dirt out over the front entrance, you will sweep one of the family away. Also, to sweep the dust and dirt out of your house by the front entrance is to sweep away the good fortune of the family; it must always be swept inwards and then carried out, then no harm will follow. All dirt and rubbish must be taken out the back door.

cny house deco

Houses are decorated and new year snacks are prepared for visitors


Reunion dinner

A reunion dinner is held on Chinese New Year’s Eve (known as Chúxī) where members of the family, near and far away, get together for the celebration. The venue will usually be in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year’s Eve dinner is very sumptuous and traditionally includes chicken and fish. In some areas, fish (simplified Chinese: 鱼; traditional Chinese: 魚; pinyin: yú) is included, but not eaten completely (and the remainder is stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase “may there be surpluses every year” (traditional Chinese: 年年有餘; simplified Chinese: 年年有余; pinyin: nián nián yǒu yú) sounds the same as “may there be fish every year.”

Reunion dinner dishes

Reunion dinner dishes

Red packets

Traditionally, Red envelopes or red packets are passed out during the Chinese New Year’s celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors. It is also common for adults or young couples to give red packets to children. Red packets are also known as Ya Sui Qian, literally, the money used to suppress or put down the evil spirit during this period.

Red packets almost always contain money, usually varying from a couple of dollars to several hundred. Per custom, the amount of money in the red packets should be of even numbers, as odd numbers are associated with cash given during funerals One exception is the number four as it is considered bad luck, because the word for four is a homophone for death, money in red envelopes never adds up to $4. However, the number 8 is considered lucky (for its homophone for “wealth”), and $8 is commonly found in the red envelopes. Sometimes chocolate coins are found in the red packets.

Chinese New Year Red Packets

Chinese New Year Red Packets

Burning crackers

Burning crackers was once the most typical custom on the Spring Festival. People thought the spluttering sound could help drive away evil spirits. However, such an activity was completely or partially forbidden in big cities once the government took security, noise and pollution factors into consideration. As a replacement, some buy tapes with firecracker sounds to listen to, some break little balloons to get the sound too, while others buy firecracker handicrafts to hang in the living room.

Fire Crackers are used to celebrate the occassion with a blast!

Fire Crackers are used to celebrate the occasion with a blast!

cny cracker decoration

Decorative Fire Crackers to spice up your home deco.

Everyone, young and old, rich and poor, looks forward to celebrating the noisiest, most joyous and longest festival of the year. For Chinese at home and abroad, the Spring Festival is always the most important festival.

During Chinese New Year, exchanges of auspicious greetings is a common custom. Take a look at some of the popular Chinese New Year Auspicious Greeting!

2010 is the Tiger Year, here are some Auspicious Greetings specific to the Tiger Year!

Learn Mandarin Words

chūn jié

春 节

spring festival,chinese new year
chú xī

除 夕

Chinese new year eve
dà sǎochú

大 扫 除

house cleaning
nián yè fàn

年 夜 饭

reunion dinner
hóng bāo

红 包

red packets
fàng biān pào

放 鞭 炮

burning firecrackers





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