Overview of Lunar New Year Traditions
Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is China’s most important traditional festival. It is also a time for families to be together and celebrate a year of hard work and wish for a lucky and prosperous coming year. Chinese people believe that a good start to the year will lead to a lucky year.
On New Year’s Eve, every street, building, and house is decorated with red. Red is the main color for the festival, as it is believed to be a “lucky” color. Red lanterns are also displayed in streets; red couplets are pasted on doors; banks and official buildings are decorated with pictures and writings representing prosperity.
The New Year’s Eve dinner is called “reunion dinner”, and is believed to be the most important meal of the year, where families sit around round tables and enjoy the food and time together. Certain foods are eaten during the New Year’s Eve dinner, because of their symbolic meanings, based on their names or appearances, such as:
- Fish – serving a whole fish symbolizes a year of abundance for the whole family. The Chinese word for fish is pronounced the same way as the word for abundance;
- Nian Gao or sticky rice cake –symbolizes prosperity in the New Year. The word of Nian Gao can be pronounced the same way as higher year;
- Oranges or Tangerines – because of their plump shape and golden color, oranges and tangerines are said to bring fortune and good luck. The Chinese word for orange sounds like success;
- Dumplings – made to look like ancient Chinese currency and legend has it, the more dumplings you eat during New Years, the more money you will make;
- Noodles – a staple food to Chinese culture, but when they are long noodles, it means longevity. The longer the noodle, the longer the life. Legend has it, the strand should be eaten whole and if you bite them half way thru, you might be cutting your life short
Just in the western culture, gifts are exchanged during the festival. The most common gifts are red envelopes. The envelopes have money in them and are given to children by the elder of the household. According to a legend, there was monster that would come out during the New Year’s Eve and terrify children while they were asleep. To keep children safe from being harmed, parents gave their children eight coins to play with the monster, in order to keep him tired. The children would distract the monster by wrapping the coins in red, opening the packet, re-wrapping and re-opening the packet until the monster was too tired to fall asleep. From then on, giving red envelopes to children became a way to keep them safe and bring good luck.
Gong Xi Fa Cai
Gong Hey Fat Choy