09 January 2013

Chinese New Year Traditions and Customs

Credit: Google Images

Chinese New Year Traditions are very important to Chinese people. It is an occasion when Chinese traditions and customs are being practiced. It is a form of cultural transmission and illuminates the values of ethnic Chinese. The Chinese New Year celebration is a colourful, symbolic and joyous time where family gatherings and auspicious greetings are exchanged to usher in a prosperous year.

A series of customary activities start a few weeks before the Chinese New Year. Here are some of the common practices before the New Year.

It is traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck.

Repay all your debts so that you would not be buried in a mountain of debts

Resolve any differences with your relatives, family members, friends and business associates so that there would be harmony in the New Year

Windows and doors will be decorated with red colour couplets with popular themes of good fortune, wealth and longevity.

Oranges and tangerines are displayed to signify abundance and happiness.

Candy tray filled with eight varieties of dried sweet fruits is placed on the coffee table to start the New Year on a sweet note.

Nian-Gao a sweet round golden brown cake made of sugar and glutinous rice is a must have as it symbolizes growth and good fortune

Floral decorations for the New Year are also very popular in Chinese families. Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth and prosperity. The following are popular plants for decorations in Chinese New Year.

Peach Blossom
Credit: Google Images
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.)

Many people will also check predictions of their luck in the New Year. The Chinese calendar has a 60 year cycle and each year is presided by a star. Everyone has a star that corresponds with the year of birth. This birth star may conflict with year’s presiding star, 犯太岁 creating difficulties at work or even your personal life. To avoid or minimize the impact, a consultation is normally advised in order to avoid making the wrong decision at the wrong time.

Last but not least, gift exchange is another popular practice before Chinese New Year. Chinese sausages, mushrooms, seafood and black sea-moss or more commonly known as fa-cai are popular gifts ideas due to its auspicious meaning.

On New Year Eve, gather with family members for a sumptuous meal. Food is served generously and family ties are strengthened. Children should stay awake so that their parents will be blessed with a long and healthy life. With all the above preparations, welcome the New Year with a Bang at midnight!! By the way, It is considered auspicious to keep your lights on and open all your doors and windows to welcome the New Year.

On New Year Day, new clothes are usually worn to signify the New Year. It is also the tradition for every family to visit their elders by exchanging oranges and auspicious greetings. The highlight for children and younger members of the family during these visits comes in little red packets, or “hong bao”, filled with money. There are however, some taboos which are still observed today.

Do not wear black as they are colours of mourning.
Do not greet people in mourning.
Do not sweep the floor or you may accidently sweep away your luck.
Do not mention the word “death” as you do not want to welcome death
Do not use knives or scissors or you may cut off your fortune.
Do not borrow money or you would be in debt all year.

Throughout the 15 days of Chinese New Year, many traditions and customs are still observed till today. However, the aura of Chinese New Year is infused with affection and affability and as long as one appreciates that family ties is paramount, then enjoyment and good fortune is bound to follow. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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