Tips for Thought

Celebrating Chinese New Year Around the World

Chinese New Year is an integral holiday in the east. Unlike the rest of the world, which celebrates the New Year on January 1, the Chinese New Year falls on various dates on the Gregorian calendar. These can range between January 21 and February 20. If you are curious about the holiday, here are some fun facts about the Chinese New Year holiday:

When is Chinese New Year?

For this year, the official date for Chinese New Year 2023 is on January 22, 2023. Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, is a 15-day festival in China and various Chinese communities worldwide. Most festivities last until the next full moon.

Is there a story behind the holiday?

Like Christmas, Chinese New Year has its own stories and myths. One of the most famous legends involves the mythical beast named Nian (“Year”) with sharp teeth and horns.

Nian, who usually stays in the dark sea for a long time, would go on shore by the end of the lunar year to hunt people and their livestock. As a result, before New Year’s eve, many people would escape to the remote mountains to avoid Nian’s rampage.

In one year, an old man with silver hair came to the village and promised to drive Nian away. However, the villagers were too scared to believe him and fled before nightfall.

As usual, Nian broke into the village, ready to butcher prey and devour it. Suddenly, bright flares and the sound of firecrackers broke off, causing Nian to tremble and refuse to step forward. The old man, dressed in red, stepped forward, causing the beast to turn into a frenzy. Terrified, it rushed away.

On the second day, after the villagers returned and found their homes and livestock safe, they realized the old man was a celestial being who came to help them. In addition, the old man told villagers about these secret weapons to ensure they would drive Nian away. These weapons are red-colored items, bright lights, and firecrackers.

Since then, people have hung up decorations, including red lanterns and firecrackers, and kept the lights on. As time passed, so did the customs, which continue to this day.

What are some Chinese New Year traditions?

Since the holiday goes on for fifteen days, many people do the following occurring in the days leading up to the celebration:

1. Cleaning the home and shopping. Many people clean their homes during the winter as a symbol to put away old things. It also welcomes the new year to a fresher and cleaner start.

Aside from cleaning, many people shop for food, snacks, decorations, clothes, and fireworks. Like Christmas, shopping for Chinese New Year creates a boom in many retail businesses.

2. Putting up decorations. Some decorations for the Chinese New Year include red lanterns, red spring couplets, paper cuttings, and paintings. These items keep evil away while welcoming fortune and prosperity like sound health, peace, and longevity.

3. Giving offerings to ancestors.

Honoring one’s ancestors is an integral part of Chinese culture. These ancestral spirits protect their descendants while guiding them to prosperity. Some offerings before the reunion dinner include meat, wine, joss sticks, and joss paper on ancestral shrines or graves.

4. Throw a reunion dinner.

Much like Thanksgiving dinner, many Chinese families must have a reunion dinner. Some members even travel long distances to come home, as several generations come to enjoy food and time together. Some dishes served during this dinner offer extra luck, like fish, dumplings, sticky rice cakes, and spring rolls.

5. Giving red envelopes to kids.

These red envelopes contain money, also known as “lucky money.” Older relatives give these envelopes to kids after the reunion dinner to wish them health, growth, and good grades in the new year. The red envelopes also symbolize luck and prosperity.

6. Celebrating with fireworks.

Fireworks are vital tools that drove Nian the beast away from the village in the legend. During Chinese New Year, certain areas of interest, like temples, set fireworks to welcome the new year while driving away evil spirits.

Takeaway: Chinese New Year is an important holiday for many Chinese families worldwide. Chinese people who live in foreign countries may celebrate the year their own way or invest money to travel back home to visit their loved ones. If you wish to celebrate Chinese New Year, consider visiting your local Chinatown or Chinese community to learn more about their practices. Gong Hei fat choy!