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A glimpse into Chinese New Year traditions

According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, Friday 31th of January will mark the beginning of the year of the Horse. The Chinese New Year is the Chinese’s most important holiday, and it’s filled with traditions. Also known as the ‘Spring Festival’, Chinese New Year celebrations last for about 20 days. Everything you do or don’t do during this period of time will set the tone for the rest of the year. So here’s a selection of tips to ensure a fresh start and welcome a new and prosperous year:

Before New Year’s Eve:

  • Clean your entire house thoroughly to get rid of the past year’s bad influences and to make room for good fortune. The cleaning should never be done on New Year’s Day for fear that incoming good fortune will be swept away. For the same reason, dusters, brooms, brushes… should be put away.

  • Decorate your home with red posters and plastic firecrackers to keep evil spirits away and bring luck to your house.

On New Year’s Eve:

  • Have dinner with your family members. New Year’s Eve dinner, known as ‘Reunion Dinner’, is one of Spring Festival’s most important events. A whole chicken and a fish dish are usually served, as chicken and fish symbolize prosperity. The fish dish should not be eaten completely to reinforce its symbolic meaning. If a family member could not take part of the festivities, an empty seat as well as a bowl and chopsticks should be placed at the table to embody his or her presence.

  • At midnight, open all the doors and windows to allow the old year to leave your house and welcome the new year.

On New Year’s Day:

  • On the first day of the year, it is important to greet everyone you meet by saying “Gong Xi Fa Cai” (Mandarin) or “Kung Hei Fat Choy” (Cantonese) which translates into “may you have a prosperous New Year!”. However, do not greet people who are mourning.

  • Give red envelopes containing money to people you wish all the best so as to bring them luck and ward off evil spirits. Traditionally, however, the ‘old’ should give to the ‘young’ and the ‘powerful’ should give to the ‘less powerful’. The total amount of money depends on the relationship you have with the person, should be an even number and should not contain a four as ‘four’ in Chinese sounds similar to ‘death’.

  • Avoid wearing black or white as those are traditionally associated with death and mourning. Wear red instead, the colour of good fortune and happiness!

  • Eat vegetarian food instead of red meat, as it is not good to see blood on the first day of the year.

  • Do not curse, or say unlucky words, and do not mention ‘death’.

  • You should not wash your hair or you will wash away your good fortune.

  • Do not lend or borrow money.


by Sophie Baron

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