Chinese New Year Traditions

by / Sunday, 25 January 2015 / Published in CNY

As with other races, the Chinese has many traditions passed down from one generation the next. It is evident every year when the Chinese come together to celebrate the New Year. The traditions serve as reminders for the group what their roots are; especially in the era of globalization where many traditional cultures are disappearing while others being influenced by another.

As part of the preparation to welcome the New Year, families start spring cleaning the house and buying new furnitures, gadgets in. The Chinese believes in a saying “去旧迎新”, which is to mean getting rid of the old and welcome the new. This process is believed to remove any back luck in the family, and gain good luck by replacing old stuff around the house. On top of spring cleaning, Chinese will also top up particularly the rice container in the house before the Chinese New Year. This represents the family to always have sufficient to feed themselves and live comfortably.

The Chinese New Year emphasizes on family harmony, prosperity, health and relationships. As such, having a reunion dinner is must in each Chinese family. Reunion dinner can be in the form of holding a steamboat gathering at home or having an eight to ten course in a Chinese restaurant. It is believed that after the dinner, everyone can be blessed with having good life in the new year.

After the reunion dinner, members of the family will look forward to the second part of the gathering – Lo Hei. During the lo hei session, everyone will gather around a large plate, filled with colourful vegetables strips and raw fish. With a pair of chopticks in hand, at the count of three, everyone will start to toss the ingredients high up in the air, chanting chains of auspicious words for everyone present, and sometimes their wishes too! What comes immediately after the session, it is also a common practice to shout “Huat!”, which simply means to gain wealth. The session is bound to inject laughter the gathering, ending the day on a high note.

During the first three days of Chinese New Year, everyone goes house-hopping, from one relative’s place to another. Unmarried adults and children are often entitled to a Hong Bao each, distributed by married couples. This gesture is seen as a symbol of well-wishes for the recipients, who will return with a few auspicious phrases as an appreciation. No doubt, these few days will be the happiest for these recipients as they have the greatest “take-aways”! In order to give a homely feel to the guests, the family host will place several types of snacks and cookies on the table for guests to treat themselves freely. Papa Cookies can help you to provide such homely environment for your guests! We provide cookies that remind you of home, your childhood memories come flooding in as you savour these cookies. Remember those days your grandmother would be in the kitchen baking pineapple tarts and cookies before Chinese New Year, and how the kids would be popping the cookies in their mouths sneakily? These good memories may just become the topic of discussions at your gatherings! With Papa Cookies on the table, your guests are bound to be beckoned to take one after another.

From house to house, everyone usually carries a red carrier bag with two oranges in it. The purpose of the red carrier bag is to give New Year greetings to the hosts of the respective households. It is a customary tradition, and it is usually done by a younger generation to the elderys in that household. At the end of the visit, be sure that the oranges are exchanged with another two found in the household. This practice is to symbolize exchange of good wishes, and to wish each other well.

Another familiar Chinese tradition is never to sweep the house on the first day of the Chinese New Year! The first day is touted to be the lucky day, and if the first day turns out to be smooth and good, the following 364 days will be good as well. As such, sweeping the floor on the first day is considered sweeping the good luck away. This tradition has been passed down for many years and till today, we hardly see Chinese families taking out their brooms on the first day especially. Cookies crumbs? Leave it for another day then!

Red is widely used as a colour for the Chinese New Year. We put elements of red around the house, even for food packagings. It is believed to be auspicious and will bring luck to the family if there are more red items in the house. And conversely, during the Chinese New Year, black is almost a taboo colour. Especially the older generation, they will always advise to wear clothings with colours as bright as possible, and to avoid the dull colours.