How to celebrate Chinese New Year

Looking for ideas on how to celebrate Chinese New Year? This post includes a list of 10 popular Chinese New Year traditions and customs.

Another new year has started…or has it? While many people across the globe have finished their New Year’s celebrations, another New Year has yet to come – Chinese New Year!

But it’s not only in China where a different New Year is held. Most Asian countries including Taiwan, Malaysia, North Korea, South Korea, and Vietnam follow the Lunar calendar which means that Chinese (or Lunar) New Year is always on a different date each year.

Top 10 Chinese New Year Traditions and Customs

For 2021, Chinese New Year will be on February 12th, which is coming up pretty soon! We’ve come up with a list of the Top 10 Chinese New Year Traditions so that you’ll know exactly how to celebrate Chinese New Year this year.

Chinese New Year Traditions & Customs

1. Clean up

While sweeping or dusting is traditionally avoided on the actual day of Chinese New Year, cleaning up your house prior to the celebrations is standard.

It is believed that cleansing your house physically will get rid of any bad luck or misfortune so that there is room for good luck to come in on the day of Chinese New Year.

2. Out with the old, in with the new

After tidying up your place, it’s time to start getting rid of things that you no longer use or, in the words of Marie Kondo, don’t give you joy. Once you’ve done that, the fun part begins!

A famous Chinese New Year tradition has families buying new clothes and other household items to have a fresh start to the new year.

3. Get festive with the color red

I wouldn’t be Chinese New Year without putting up tons of red decorations. Red is the color of choice for every Chinese New Year as it symbolizes luck and wealth. This color is also believed to keep Nian, a notorious lion monster, away since he is afraid of the color red.

While most people start decorating as early as a month before, others wait until the last minute and hang up their red decor on the eve of Chinese New Year.

4. Share the wealth

Another symbol of wealth and good fortune is the red envelope. Traditionally, red envelopes are filled with money and given to those who are younger than you. This Chinese New Year tradition is usually carried out by those who earn an income and can also be given to older members of the family who have retired.

While families mostly use the money for new school supplies or other necessities, many people end up putting the money in their savings.

Nowadays, there are even e-red envelopes, which can be accompanied with personalized Chinese New Year greetings.

5. Gather ‘round for some quality family time

Just like with any major Western holiday, Chinese New Year is a time for families to come together no matter how far they have to travel. In fact, Chinese New Year is considered the world’s largest annual migration.

Not coming home for the new year celebrations is heavily frowned upon, since China and other Asian countries that celebrate Lunar New Year give as many as 12 days for vacation. Families will spend these days catching up with one another along with the occasional bickering.

6. Get ready to feast!

Food is such an important part of Chinese culture and even more so during Chinese New Year. Because everyone gets to rest during this time, families will usually prepare food together.

Each country has its own unique dish that is eaten every New Year’s Day, and for China, dumplings (jiaozi 餃子) are the standard. Every family has their own dumpling recipe and will make the wrapper and fillings from scratch.

This is often a laborious process that takes several hours as hundreds are made. Dumplings are thought to represent ancient coins, which symbolize wealth. Many hope by eating these dumplings, they will have a prosperous year.

7. Reunion Dinner

Chinese New Year’s Eve is when the most important dinner of the year is held – reunion dinner. Many meaningful dishes are prepared for this dinner and after chowing down, it’s time to tune in to one of the most watched TV shows in China – the Spring Festival Gala.

This is also when people send their e-red envelopes using the messenger app, WeChat, to those they were unable to see in person.

8. Start the New Year with a bang!

Another popular Chinese New Year tradition is setting off firecrackers. Firecrackers are made by rolling up red paper with gunpowder inside. When the firecrackers are set off, pieces of the red paper remain.

These firecrackers, along with fireworks which have become more popular in recent years, are believed to ward off the evil spirit of Nian with their loud noises. Thousands of years ago, when gunpowder did not yet exist, people would often throw bamboo into fires to scare off Nian.

9. Offer sacrifices to ancestors

Similar to other cultures that have holidays where people attempt to connect with their lost loved ones (such as Dia de los Muertos), Chinese New Year is thought of to be a time where families can offer sacrifices to their ancestors in exchange for blessings for the new year.

Filial piety is extremely important in Chinese culture, so by paying your respects to your ancestors, you are starting off the year on the right track.

10. Light up some lanterns

To end this long celebration, people will light up lanterns or go watch them at the Lantern Festival.

There are a variety of different types of lanterns that have undergone a recent modern update. They used to be made of paper and lit with some good ole candles, but now, there has been an increase of the use of LED powered lanterns.

Now you know how to celebrate Chinese New Year!

Whether you’re new to celebrating Chinese New Year or have grown up with these traditions, kicking off a brand-new year is always a great time to connect with loved ones!

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas on how to celebrate Chinese New Year. Do you know any other Chinese New Year traditions? Let us know and we can add them to the list!

Make sure to check out other related posts:

How to celebrate Chinese New Year

Author: Ria is writer based in South Korea who loves to travel and explore the world learning about different cultures and customs.