Red paper New Year decorations are pasted on the front door of a house in China.

The Chinese New Year celebration is enjoyed by most people of Chinese descent all over the world. The festival takes place in January or February and lasts fifteen days. The first few days of the festival are public holidays in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The home and the family are central to the celebration of Chinese New Year, just as they are to the celebration of many other festivals from other cultures.

Preparation[edit | edit source]

Getting home[edit | edit source]

The period around Chinese New Year is the time of the greatest human migration on the planet. It is traditional for grown-up children to return home to see their parents for the holiday and many migrant workers who are usually separated from their wives and children return to see them.

For many people in mainland China, going home for Chinese New Year involves extremely lengthy and uncomfortable train journeys which may be delayed due to snow.

The situation is somewhat different in Taiwan. The island is roughly the same size as Holland or the U.S. state of New York, consequently journeys are not so long, Snow is virtually unknown in Taiwan, which means that journeys are almost never delayed by bad weather. However, tickets for buses and trains on the days before and after Chinese New Year sell out quickly and many passengers have to stand.

Cleaning[edit | edit source]

A lot of cleaning takes place in the days and weeks before Chinese New Year, not only because people want their homes to look nice for visitors but also because tradition says that it is unlucky to clean during the holiday. It is considered bad luck to use a broom during Chinese New Year, in case good luck is swept out of the house by accident. It is considered bad luck to take out the garbage during Chinese New Year to avoid throwing away good luck. People will try to avoid doing the laundry during Chinese New Year, so that good luck is not washed away. For the same reason, children are not obliged to take a shower or have a bath on Chinese New Year's Day, although most adults bathe as usual.

Decorations[edit | edit source]

Red paper Chinese New Year decorations. The Chinese character for "Spring" appears upside-down in the center of the red diamond.

The color most commonly associated with Chinese New Year is red. In traditional Chinese culture, red is believed to frighten away bad luck and it is featured in virtually all holiday decorations.

Traditional Chinese New Year decorations are fairly simple, usually consisting of red pieces of paper with Chinese characters printed on them. A popular decoration is a red paper diamond with the Chinese character for "spring" on it. It is usually displayed upside down because the Mandarin Chinese for "upside down" sounds like the phrase in that language which means "is coming", so the decoration says, "Spring is coming." Other paper decorations are in the form of long rectangles with new year greetings on them. These red paper decorations are often put up on the front door or in communal areas of apartment buildings, such as by the elevator. They are typically left up all year and replaced with new decorations when Chinese New Year comes again.

Some people temporarily display more elaborate decorations in their homes. These can take the form of strings of firecrackers or outsized coins, lanterns or dolls in the shape of Chinese deities. Red is the main color of those decorations too.

Buying clothes[edit | edit source]

It is traditional to wear new clothes on Chinese New Year's Day. Many people wear at least one item of red clothing for good luck on the day. Red underwear sells particularly well in the days leading up to the festival.

Chinese New Year's Eve[edit | edit source]

Just like the Western New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year's Eve is marked by the entire family staying up until midnight to see in the new year. While waiting for midnight, they will enjoy a family dinner of "lucky" foods. At around midnight, children are given presents of "lucky" red envelopes with money inside.

Television watching has recently become an important part of Chinese New Year's Eve for many families, with television companies in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan producing special programs for the event.

Food[edit | edit source]

Many special meals take place during Chinese New Year. All foods served at the meals are supposed to be "lucky". Dumplings shaped like gold ignots, used as money in ancient China, are popular because they are supposed to bring wealth. Fish is featured in nearly all Chinese New Year meals because the word for "fish" in Mandarin Chinese sounds similar to the word for "surplus". Chicken is very popular in Taiwan because the Taiwanese word for "chicken" sounds like the word for "home". Oranges are popular because the word for "orange" sounds similar to the word for "luck" in some Chinese languages.

Popular drinks to accompany Chinese New Year meals are orange juice, because oranges are considered lucky, and red wine, because of its lucky red color.

Of course, nowadays some people will just eat their favorite food, whatever that food may be, at Chinese New Year. However, they will usually come up with a creative reason to explain why their favorite food is "lucky". For example, the logos of KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut and Domino's Pizza all feature the color red, which means that some people argue that take-out food from those places is "lucky" food.

Related[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.