• Jennifer Spatz

Chinese New Year Traditions and The Year of the Dog


On Friday, February 16th, the Chinese New Year traditions begin to celebrate the Year of the Dog! Those born under this symbol are known to be loyal, honest, and friendly. They are also always ready to help others, by lending a shoulder or providing a listening ear.

While the Zodiac is one of the most famous parts of the Chinese New Year, this major holiday has over 3,000 years of history with plenty of other traditions to discover!

Cleaning

A week before the New Year even begins, people give their homes a thorough cleaning while they wait for their relatives to make their way home. Doing so represents a farewell to the old year and a clean slate for the new one with hopes of good fortune in the months to come.

New Year's Eve Dinner

As with many festivals all over the world, food plays an important role during the Chinese New Year. Especially significant is the New Year’s Eve Dinner when family from all over spanning generations reunites under a single roof. On the menu is an arrangement of lucky dishes such as fish, which represents an increase in prosperity, and tangyuan, or sweet rice balls, which represent family togetherness.

Lighting Firecrackers

New Year’s wouldn’t be complete without fireworks! Legend has it that a monster known as Nian used to attack local villages on the first day of the New Year, eating the people and destroying their homes without mercy. Then one day, the villagers discovered that burning dry bamboo produced an explosive sound that scared the beast away. Since then, setting off firecrackers – and more recently fireworks – has become an important tradition.

Red Packets

Similarly well-known are the red packets given out at this time of year. Known as hongbao in Mandarin and lai see in Cantonese, these packets contain monetary gifts, though it the red envelope itself that holds the most significance. This is because money wrapped in red is supposed to bestow good fortune and happiness on the receivers.

Welcoming the God of Wealth and Prosperity: Day 5

Called Po Woo or Po Wu, the fifth day of the Chinese New Year is celebrated as the birthday of the God of Wealth. Businesses begin to resume their day-to-day operations with many enjoying a Dancing Dragons performance in front of the office building to improve the prosperity and good fortune of their business. For those who do not have work, it is considered wise to spend as much of the day as possible at home in case the God of Wealth pays a visit.

Lantern Festival: Day 15

The New Year’s festivities come to a close on the 15th day – March 2nd – with the magical lantern festival. This incredible display began in the Han Dynasty (25-220­) when the Emperor, an advocate of Buddhism, learned that monks were lighting lanterns of the 15th day of the first lunar month to show respect to Buddha and ordered that all the temples, households, and royal palaces do the same. The most important customs on this day are lighting lanterns – whether floating, fixed, held, or flying – guessing riddles written on the lanterns, eating tangyuan, and lion dances.

The Chinese New Year and its many traditions are only a fraction of what you can learn about in person on an exciting adventure to China. The best way for you and your family to learn more is to immerse yourself in the culture on one of our family-friendly tours to China:

- China: Learn, Serve & Immerse

- China's Cultural Crossroads

- Discover China: Photo Tour

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