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Chinese New Year Practices

Chinese New Year [Chinese Spring Festival] Common Practices Highlights:

Before the New Year

Clean up - Sweep away the bad luck of the year that’s ending.

Prepare for new look – Buy new clothes, get a hair cut.

Plan out the food – Fruits like oranges are good, for it has golden color and homophone with the word “Ji” in some dialects (means good luck in Chinese).  Fish is good for it is homophone with “Yu” (means abundant, or extra in Chinese).  Noodle is good for it symbolizes a long life.  Candy is good for it symbolizes a "sweet" year.  Turnip or Taro cakes are special cakes for the New Year.  The cakes are called “nian gao” in Chinese, meaning “improve or get higher” every year.

Pay off the debts – So you will start the New Year fresh. 

Red Packets During Chinese Spring Festival

The red packet is simply a red envelope with money or gift in it.  The packet is often decorated with lucky symbols.  Traditionally, red packets, or “hong bao” (紅包) in Chinese, are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebrations, from adult family members to older parents, or from parents, grandparents, or other older relatives to young children.  It has become more popular recently for the bosses to give out year end bonus or gift money to their employees for the hard work they have done over the last year.  Red packets are also known as “Ya Sui Qian” (压岁钱), literally “age suppressing money”.  It’s a way of passing the wishes for good luck.

The red packet money usually varies from a few dollars to several hundred dollars.  If the receiver is wealthy, the amount is only of token value and more in-line with the good luck wishes that it carries.  Bosses tend to give more substantial amount in the range of a month pay.  But again it varies depending on the success of the business and the performance of the employees.  Red packets should be of even numbers as odd numbers are associated with cash given during funerals.

Firecrackers and Fireworks During Chinese Spring Festival

Firecrackers come individually or strung on a long string. They are cased in red paper.  Chinese New Year begins to unfold amidst the noise of firecrackers.  The loud popping noise created by the explosion is thought to scare away evil spirits.

Firework displays are often arranged in local cities by government to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Similar displays are also held in many other cities outside China.

The Lion Dance During Chinese Spring Festival

Lion dance is a remarkable piece of folk performance art and sports.  With a few performers, small space, and easily constructed props, the lion dance can be seen in many local places around China in Chinese New Year period.  The lion is normally controlled by 2 people, one for the lion head, and the other for the lion body.  It takes years of training and practice before the performers can be good enough to give a public performance. It's no surprise that many lion dancers are also practitioners of Chinese martial arts, such as Kung Fu.  The lively display of the lion dance animates the air of festivity in Chinese New Year celebrations. 

House Decorations for Chinese New Year

Chinese craft art - The paper cut art work is especially popular to serve decorative purposes in this Chinese New Year celebration occasion.

Red banners with the word “fu” meaning "happiness" (福) are popular decorations to hung around the house and on the fronts of doors. This sign is usually seen hung upside down, since the Chinese word “dao” meaning "upside down" (倒) sounds similar as the word “dào” (到) meaning "arrive". Therefore, it symbolizes the arrival of good luck or happiness.  Other message like “good fortune”, “good health”, “wealth” or “longevity” are often used as well in the red banners or spring couplets.

Floral decorations for the New Year are also very popular in Chinese families.  People love to have live blooming plants to symbolize the refresh New Year and new growth.  Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth and prosperity.  The following are popular plants for decorations in Chinese New Year.

Peach blossom (symbolizes good luck)  
Plum blossom (symbolizes good luck)  
Kumquat plants (symbolizes prosperity and happiness)  
Narcissus and Chrysanthemum (symbolizes good health and longevity)  
Bamboo (A plant used for anytime of year for its compatibility.)

Superstitions during the New Year period

Don’t clean your home during the first day of Chinese New Year.  You don’t want to risk sweeping away the good luck of the New Year. 

Don’t wash your hair on the first day or get a hair cut on the first few days in Chinese New Year.  “Hair” is a homophone for the word “fa” meaning “prosperity” in Chinese.  Thus “cut the hair” or “wash the hair” could be perceived as “cut your prosperity” or “wash your prosperity away” in Chinese.

Don’t cry on the first few days of the New Year or raise your voice to your children or you will set a tone of discord for the New Year.

Don’t buy books in the first few days in Chinese New Year.  “Book” is a homophone for the word “shu” meaning "lose" in Chinese.

Don’t buy shoes in the first few days in Chinese New Year.  “Shoes” is a homophone for the word “xie” meaning “evil” in Chinese.

Don’t talk about death in the first few days of Chinese New Year since it is considered inauspicious.

Do open windows and/or doors for it is considered to 'bring in' the good luck of the New Year.  

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