Chinese New Year Customs 101

How will you be celebrating the Lunar New Year? Yes, it’s commonly known as Chinese New Year but it is celebrated by many different cultures other than Chinese. But since I am Chinese here’s the rundown of what we are suppose to do and eat when ushering the new year!

Dumplings Chinatown Toronto - Photo credit: Sonya DavidsonEAT DUMPLINGS – in Northern China dumplings are made by many families and eaten together often on New Year’s Eve. The dumplings represent and closely resemble traditional gold and silver ingots and play an important part of what we eat during this time of year.

CLEAN – this is a thorough clean of your home prior the New Year’s Eve and not just a light dusting. This is to sweep away any old, bad, lingering spirits and get ready for the new good ones. This also means opening up the windows to let those spirits out more easily. You’ll also want a thorough bath as well! BUT don’t do any cleaning on the first few days into the New Year — otherwise you’ll be sweeping out the good fortune!

RED ENVELOPES – also known as “Huong Bao” or “Lei See” are usually given by adults, married couples and older generations to children.  I’ve even distributed red envelopes to the little kids in my son’s class filled with chocolate coins instead of cash so they can share in the traditions.

Huong Bao - Photo credit: Sonya Davidson

FIRECRACKERS – generally lit at the stroke of midnight to scare any bad spirits away…but maybe not in my neighbourhood of non-chinese. Nowadays you can enjoy the firecrackers in Chinatown or Chinese malls.

New Years Treats - Photo credit: Sonya DavidsonUPSIDE DOWN GOOD LUCK or HAPPINESS SIGNS –  You may have seen the character FU displayed on front doors of home. This is done on purpose to symbolize good luck pouring into your home. Signs are always red and gold.

FOOD – every dish symbolizes something of good fortune this time of year. Dumplings  are consumed to bring good fortune. Noodles represent longevity (please don’t cut them). But remember that the first official day of the new year we don’t eat any meat and always ensure you have a tray of sweets like dried or candied fruits to have available to wish a “year of sweetness.”

WHAT TO WEAR: Red is the colour of choice associated with happiness, good luck and good fortune. I recall my dad telling me that it’s good to wear a new outfit (yes, including shoes) on the first day..again, to start the new year fresh! I’m totally down with that!

Chinatown Toronto - Photo credit: Sonya DavidsonBLOSSOMS – it’s tradition to have living blooms in your home during the Chinese New Year which symbolizes new growth and birth of a new year. Most popular are azalea and lucky bamboo. Vases along side fruit bowls filled with tangerines around the home brings hopes of good fortune.

HOW MANY DAYS? The New Year’s celebration tends to go on for 15 days. Most of the time is spent visiting with family and friends. Certain foods are eaten on certain days.  There are plenty of sites that will explain the origins of what each day means. There are some variations but just remember that New Year’s is to spend time with family and friends.

What other customs do you follow during the New Year?

From our team here at AZNmodern to you and your family…Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Sonya is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of She is also a well-established contributing lifestyle writer to other sites and magazines sharing her passion for arts & culture, fashion, beauty, travel and food. Sonya is based in Toronto, Canada. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @theculturepearl

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