The festive season is here and boy are we geared up with food, wine, gifts and games. On the other side of the planet, China will celebrate its own New Year. There is a lot of hearsay, lack of awareness and knowledge about the traditions and cultures of the Chinese New Year. So, here’s what you need to know to enjoy the festivities this year.
What’s the Chinese New Year?
The Chinese New Year is based on the Lunar New Year and falls on the day of the first new moon after the winter solstice. The Chinese calendar follows a 12-year cycle, each year related to an animal sign, namely rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Each animal sign has specific characteristics. Rats are a symbol of vitality, fertility, intelligence and wit. 2020 is the year of the rat, so we are entering a new cycle!
What all happens during this period?
The Chinese deep clean their homes to usher in the New Year. It symbolizes getting rid of the old and welcoming the new.
Legend has it that there was a mystical beast called Nian that would come out on New Year’s Eve to harm people, animals and properties. Nian was afraid of loud sounds, fire and the color red. So, keeping with tradition, people burst firecrackers and put on red decorations, like lanterns, year paint, papercutting, and door gods to ward off evil.
The New Year’s Eve dinner is the most important dinner throughout the year. They are reunions when families come together to celebrate and usher in the New Year together. The families prepare lavish dinners and special home-cooked meals for the feast and the fiesta that goes along.
After the family dinner, the entire family stays awake through the night to protect their loved ones. This is called Shou Sui.
Adults – especially married couples – gift children money in red envelopes. According to them, the color red suppresses evil and gives good health and prosperity on children.
Some very strict dos and don’ts for the first day of the New Year
Out of respect for the Buddhist gods, the Chinese don’t eat meat for breakfast or kill animals on the first day of the year.
Also, on the first day of the year, they don’t eat porridge as it is considered a poor man’s breakfast. Oh, they also don’t take any medicine or visit hospitals as they believe it can invite sickness for the whole year.
They don’t wear white or black. These colors personify mourning or sadness according to the locals. Also, worn-out or damaged clothes are a strict no-no as it brings a bad omen. That’s why, it is the best time to shop for a new wardrobe and wear shiny, bright and colorful clothes!
Tradition-appropriate gifts if you plan to visit Chinese friends
Keep all sharp objects, cut flowers, and handkerchiefs away. These symbolize end of a relationship or farewell. Oh, and if you planning to gift multiple gifts, don’t take 4 of them as the word four in Chinese sounds like death. Gulp! Also, it shouldn’t be black or white, you know why!
No clocks – they symbolize running out of time, especially to seniors, a strict no-no. So if you want your friendship to keep ticking make sure you never gift a clock.
Want to visit during the Chinese New Year?
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