Research Chinese New Year. It’s a very significant holiday in Chinese culture and the festivities extend over a period of two weeks. The Chinese New Year is accompanied by a belief in good fortune, and there are many decorations around to herald the new year.
Chinese celebrators head to temples to pray for good luck during the New Year celebration period. There they burn incense sticks and can also have their fortunes told. If you are not of Chinese descent but would like to participate, attend a Chinese temple and take a tube of fortune sticks which can usually be found at the entrance to the temple. Ask a question, shake the tube and the number that falls out can be interpreted by one of the fortune tellers at the temple.
Clean your home in time for New Year. This tradition is founded in the belief that cleaning the house at this time of year will “sweep away the bad luck” that has accumulated inside over the past year. Cleaning also makes the house ready for the good luck to start entering again.
• Put away dustpans and brooms so that the good luck won’t be swept away after cleaning.
• Keeping fresh and hygienic is also an important part of celebrating; even a new haircut will do.
• Be aware! Do not clean your home during the New Year, such as sweeping or wiping the windows. To do so is to “sweep away” the good luck you’ve just received for the New Year. Over the following 13 to 15 days, you’re relieved of cleaning duties. It may be a little dirtier than usual but it is an important part of observing the tradition.
Decorate your home. The color that is most recommended is red. Red is the color or symbol of good luck in Chinese culture. The number “8” also symbolizes good luck and wealth, as in Chinese the word for eight rhymes with fortune or wealth.
• Take care not to overdo the decorations. Display a few good ones to bring life and fortune from their brightness and colorful nature.
• Place flowers through the house, such as lotuses. Lotus flowers symbolize rebirth and new growth.
• Place mandarins in bowls throughout the house. Mandarins with their leaves still intact are the fruits of happiness for the New Year. Keep their numbers even though, as uneven numbers bring unhappiness. When offering mandarins to others, always offer them in pairs.
• Set out a tray of candies with eight different types of candies arranged along it. The traditional candies are those made from lotus seeds, longan, peanuts, coconut, red melon seed, candied melon, etc.
Offer a sacrifice to the Kitchen God. While this deity may have a funny name, it is like all gods and should be worshiped. This sacrifice could include foods such as fruits, for example. Good behavior should be used so that he will make a “good report when he goes back to Heaven.” Many families have a large poster of him in their kitchen.
Have a traditional dinner on New Year’s Eve. This is one of the most important parts of the holiday and the food eaten at this time of year has traditional meanings related to the Chinese New Year. Some Chinese choose not to eat meat on the first day of Chinese New Year because each new year carries the name of an animal. The remaining days carry no such restrictions. Traditional dishes include fish, jai, chicken, law pak ko, lin guo (sticky rice cake), noodles and desserts. Dumplings play a special role in New Year food because of their shape, a shape which resembles the ancient Chinese gold or silver ingots. Some of the food meanings include:
• Jiu, a traditional hard liquor, and daikon, the Chinese radish, carry the meaning of longevity.
• Red chilies mean good luck.
• Rice ensures harmony.
Cook your own Chinese cuisine. If you’d like to do more than simply order at the local Chinese restaurant, try these delicious recipes suitable for Chinese New Year:
• How to make Chinese dumplings
• How to fry pot stickers
• How to make Chinese New Year cake nian gao (sticky rice cake)
• How to make Chinese noodles in a peanut sauce
• How to make a Chinese bean paste bun
• How to make shrimp with Chinese lobster sauce.
Dress for the occasion. If you have traditional Chinese clothing, this is the perfect time to wear it. Outfits can be purchased in Chinatown, and silk Chinese clothing is very beautiful. Prefer the color red for all your clothing during this time. Associated with joy, happiness, good luck, wealth and good fortune, red clothes will ensure that you’re fully participating in the spirit of the celebrations. Gold is another suitable color; try combining the two for a very elegant look.
• Avoid wearing too much black during the celebration period. Black symbolizes bad luck and even death. This is a time of good fortune and life!
Interact with others in a positive manner. Chinese New Year is a time of happiness and good fortune and it’s important to spread the goodwill. Avoid having any quarrels, fights, or negative attitudes during the New Year. These will bring you bad luck.
• When greeting other people during the New Year period, use greetings such as: Gung hay Fat Choy”/ “Gong Xi Fa Chai” – these mean “Happy New Year” in Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese respectively.
• “Kung hei fat choy” means: “We hope that you will be wealthy”.
Visit your relatives and friends. This is the most important part of the New Year and is a time of connecting and sharing the celebrations together.
• Bring Angpau, the red envelopes, with you, to pass to children. Usually, the red envelopes are filled with money or treats. The red color is meant to scare away any evil spirits. These envelopes are usually given to the unmarried from the married. And for the sake of continued prosperity, it’s a good idea (or lesson) to encourage children to save the money that they’re given in the envelope.
Set off firecrackers. The firecrackers used in China and Hong Kong are loud, banging fireworks that are mostly lit on the ground. The loud noises are thought to scare the bad spirits away, to prevent them from bringing bad luck. Many Chinese choose to decorate their homes with plastic firecrackers too, to ward off bad luck and to symbolize the deafening noise made when the real firecrackers are set off.