While the Western New Year lasts but a day, Chinese New Year is celebrated over two weeks. Each day brings with it new activities, events and superstitions. Here are some of the cultural highlights from the Lunar New Year calendar.
Held on New Year’s Eve, the reunion dinner is a chance for families to reunite – ancestors are honoured, and jiao zi dumplings are made and eaten as the clock strikes midnight to usher in wealth and prosperity for the coming year.
On the stroke of midnight, every door and window is opened in the home, allowing the old year to leave.
Midnight is also the time when the streets across Asia – and the world – come alive with lion dances and fireworks. The lion is a symbol of courage, stability and superiority, and the lion’s dance, accompanied by the loud explosion of firecrackers, is said to keep the monsters, ghosts and evil spirits away. Clashing cymbals, a gong and drums usually accompany this scene electrifying the atmosphere.
Red envelopes filled with money are exchanged during Chinese New Year. Parents and grandparents gift them to children, and bosses will often bestow a New Year’s bonus upon their employees. There are even apps for sending red envelopes electronically these days! Before you give a red envelope this year, be sure to read about the etiquette of giving red envelopes.
Chances are, it’s not just the envelopes that’ll be showing a flash of red during Lunar New Year – Chinese people also like to don red underwear, often embroidered with their zodiac animal.
Be sure to give your home a thorough clean in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve to sweep away any bad omens. Then, on New Year’s Day you should resist the urge to clean your house – or even wash your hair – as this is thought to wash away any good luck.
The seventh day of New Year’s celebrations is also known as Renri, or Human Day, said to denote the day that humans were created. As it’s also the day animals were created, many people adhere to a vegetarian diet on this day. In Chinese tradition, this is the day that everyone turns one year older.
The culmination of the 15-day Chinese New Year celebration is the Lantern Festival. The lanterns are believed to light the way for the new year, and to guide mischievous spirits home. People dine on round glutinous rice dumplings as they gaze at the first full moon of the year.
Create your own Chinese New Year tradition by cooking an original recipe for our Chinese New Year Cooking Contest. Cook, Snap & Win for your chance to win a $29,000 trip for four to Thailand!
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