Chinese New Year is the most important festival for Chinese people and the most widely celebrated holiday in the world. With great passion, people observe this annual 16-day festival with diverse Chinese New Year activities, some of which are thousand-year-old traditions. This article will cover the top 10 popular Chinese New Year activities.
1. Cleaning and decorating the house
From Dec. 23 in the lunar calendar to the Chinese New Year Eve, people carry out a complete “winter-cleaning” in the house. They sweep the floor, furniture, and walls and put away old things, which signifies sweeping away bad luck and welcoming the new year. However, sweeping houses is never recommended on the first day of the Lunar New Year because it means sweeping away the good luck and wealth of the new year.
During this winter cleaning, people decorate their houses with red lanterns, red spring couplets, paper cuttings, and New Year’s paintings. People believe that putting up those decorations will keep evil away and welcome blessings, health, longevity, and peace. 2022 is the Year of the Tiger, so tiger images will appear on decorations.
2. New Year shopping
Shopping must be one of the most important Chinese New Year preparations. Around ten days before New Year’s Eve, shopping malls and markets will be full of people buying new clothes, red decorations, meat, snacks, and firecrackers. Candies, peanuts, and sunflower seeds are also a must on the shopping list. Like Christmas in the West, Chinese New Year in China is a boom time for shopping.
With the significant rise of e-commerce and online shopping in recent years, many people have chosen online shopping over traditional shopping. E-commerce companies also take this chance and launch great discounts and promotions for New Year to attract customers.
3. Enjoying a reunion dinner
A reunion dinner must be one of the most significant Chinese New Year activities. This is the gathering of all family members, no matter how far away each member lives or works. Everyone tries their best to come back home to reunite with their family. Generally, all the dishes are homemade and maybe the most abundant of the year. Fish (鱼 Yú) is a must-have dish in the gathering dinner as it sounds like “surplus” (余 yu) and symbolizes abundance. Other lucky foods are Niángāo (glutinous rice cake), a wish for a higher income or position as Niángāo (年糕) is a homonym with “higher year” or “grow every year” (年高). During the reunion dinner, people also enjoy Dumplings shaped like Chinese silver ingots, which signify family unity and prosperity.
4. Watching the New Year Gala
After having dinner, many Chinese families gather to watch the New Year Gala on TV. The Gala usually starts at 8 PM and ends when the Chinese New Year arrives at midnight. It features traditional, folk, comedy, and pop performances from China’s best singers, dancers, and acrobats.
5. Staying up late
This custom is called 守岁 (shousui) – show-sway, which means “reminiscing about the year that has passed.” In the past, Chinese people used to stay up all night, but now most people only stay up until midnight, when the firecrackers and fireworks die down.
6. Giving hongbao
During the 16-day festival, the Chinese will give hongbao, or red envelopes containing “lucky money,” to the younger generations, wishing them health, growth, and good studies in the coming year. The lucky money must be new bills, and the amount usually varies from 100 to 1,000, but never be 400 as this is a very bad number to the Chinese.
7. Watching fireworks and lion and dragon dances
Setting off and watching firecrackers and fireworks is an indispensable Chinese festive activity. This tradition is widely celebrated and enjoyed, from public displays in major cities to millions of private celebrations in China’s rural areas as people believe firecrackers scare away evil.
billions of fireworks light up the sky at midnight of the lunar New Year’s Eve to welcome the New Year’s arrival.
Lion dances and dragon dances are also popular Chinese New Year activities in China and Chinatowns in Western countries. The Chinese believe that the dances will bring prosperity and good luck for the upcoming year or event.
8. Pasting Spring Festival couplets
Pasting Spring Festival couplets on the gate is a common and important custom when celebrating Chinese New Year. This tradition is widely kept in both modern cities and rural areas of China. The Spring Festival couplets are written on red paper with ink or gold paint, which was originally intended to scare away evil spirits and add to the festive atmosphere. The couplets are usually pasted on the gate between 1 PM and 3 PM on the 29th day of lunar December. The correct pasting order is upper scroll, lower scroll, and horizontal scroll. You can tell apart the upper and lower scrolls from the writing order of the horizontal scroll.
9. Visiting relatives and sending New Year wishes
On the first days of the new year, Chinese people put on new clothes and visit relatives and friends to wish them health, prosperity, and longevity (to the elders). According to traditional customs, married couples visit the wife’s parents on the second day of the New Year.
When people visit relatives and friends, it’s good to bring some Chinese New Year gifts, such as local products and wines. During this time, newly-married couples and little kids could receive red envelopes from their elders.
10. Sending blessing messages
The Chinese like to send blessing messages to their relatives, colleagues, or friends during the festival. The messages can be either a New Year’s card, a WeChat red envelope, or a text message, often sent at 00:00 to express best wishes. This is a helpful way to wish each other good luck and happiness in the New Year, especially if you’re too busy to visit or live too far from them.
The bottom line
Chinese New Year activities’ importance is rooted deep in history, and today it remains the most important occasion for generations of Chinese families to reunite and spend time together. If you’re studying in Chinese or doing business with Chinese people, understanding their traditions and culture will help you build stronger relationships with them, opening many potential opportunities.
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