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How is the Lunar New Year Celebrated?

The New Year celebration is centred around removing the bad and the old, and welcoming the new and the good. It's a time to worship ancestors, exorcise evil spirits and pray for good harvest.

February 04, 2024
How is the Lunar New Year Celebrated? 

Today it's celebrated also by Chinese communities outside the country. Lion dance, dragon dance, temple fairs, flower market shopping, and so on are just a few of these rich and colorful activities.

In the run-up to the new year, people will clean their houses to get rid of dirt, rubbish, and other unwanted items. They will redecorate them with red couplets, lanterns, new flowerpots, and furniture, and will shop for foodstuffs for banquet specialties.

The New Year is an important family reunion occasion, so those who are living or working far away would return home prior to the holiday. In China this is now known as Chun Yun (春运 Moving in the Spring): tens of millions of people travel on the country's vast public transport systems or via private means, coming home to be with their loved ones.

Among other Chinese New Year traditions is the thorough cleaning of one’s home to rid the resident of any lingering bad luck. Some people prepare and enjoy special foods on certain days during the celebrations. The last event held during the Chinese New Year is called the Lantern Festival, during which people hang glowing lanterns in temples or carry them during a nighttime parade. Since the dragon is a Chinese symbol of good fortune, a dragon dance highlights festival celebrations in many areas. This procession involves a long, colorful dragon being carried through the streets by numerous dancers.

As an important family reunion occasion, food and drink are a crucial part of the New Year celebration. Members of the family sit around a big table to have a New Year's Eve dinner. This is known as Nian Ye Fan (年夜饭).

Families burn incense to worship their ancestors. Older and senior members of the family give the younger ones good luck pocket money known as Ya Sui Qian (压岁钱) contained in a red envelope (Hong Bao 红包).

At midnight on New Year's Eve, noisy firecrackers would be set off to usher in the New Year. On New Year's Day and the few days that follow, friends would visit each other's homes offer good luck wishes to each other, and exchange seasonal greetings (拜年), where they make a bow with hands folded in front (作揖).

The decoration is a big part of the Chinese New Year celebration. People spend substantial time and effort to uplift their houses and the immediate surroundings in order to welcome the Gods of Wealth (财神). There are said to be two Gods of Wealth: one God of Civil (文神) and one God of Military (武神).People fix up paper cuts (窗花) on windows and folk paintings on walls, hang red lanterns in and outside their houses, display couplets (春联) on doors, hang a big Chinese character LUCK (福) on the main entrance and so on.

In some parts of northern China, this Chinese character is often hung upside down because the term "upside down" sounds like "arriving" in Mandarin Chinese. Thus an upside-down LUCK would mean LUCK arriving there.

Streets, city squares, and other public places are also decorated with banners, flags, flowerpots, orange trees, and so on in order to boost the festive atmosphere. Peach, plum, and daffodils are mostly seen because they are thought to bring good luck.

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