Seven things to know about how Chinese celebrate the Lunar New Year


By Emily Stockton

This year, Chinese New Year falls on February 8th.

Take a quick look at how Chinese living in China spend their holiday season. (Keep in mind that traditions vary somewhat throughout the country.)

1. Not a one-day event

Chinese New Year has too many traditions to cram them all into a single 24-hour day!

Celebrations officially last from the first day until the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. However, if you include the special activities prior to the New Year, such as special family gatherings on New Year’s Eve, the holiday count increases even more!

Schools are on break for approximately one month during the holidays, but quite a few adult workers must return to their daily grind after only a three-day break.

2. Travel home

Millions jam Chinese public transportation to get to their parents’ or grandparents’ homes prior to the start of the holidays, which is why Chinese New Year is often dubbed as “the world’s largest annual mass migration.”

Due to work responsibilities or finances, not everyone can return home. Chinese New Year, therefore, becomes a special time for Christians to reach out in friendship to those who feel lonely and isolated.

Chinese who live abroad often miss the excitement of the holiday, and many really miss their families at this time of year. A meaningful way to express interest in their lives would be to simply acknowledge the festival and ask them about the holiday traditions and past family celebrations.

Pray for the Gospel message to be spread throughout China as Chinese people travel this holiday season.
3. Activities on the eve of Chinese New Year

Because Chinese New Year is primarily a family festival, extended families gather together at home on the eve of the New Year. The family members will talk, watch T.V., stay up until midnight, set off fireworks and make jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) that will be eaten the next day.

Learn to make jiaozi by following our recipe or watching a video to see how it’s done!

4. Happenings on the first day of the New Year

Lots of doorbells ring on the first day of the New Year as people visit friends and relatives to pass along New Year greetings. Some visitors don’t even go inside the homes, but merely stop at the door to share a word of cheer.

Learn how to say “Happy New Year” in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Others go to temples to worship or go shopping on the first day of the New Year. Though most stores and restaurants close for the holidays, those near temples or tourist spots stay open to take advantage of the holiday crowds.

5. Food, food and more food

Two big family meals take place at Chinese New Year, each one consisting of dozens of dishes. The first one is on Chinese New Year’s Eve, and the other is on the evening of Chinese New Year’s Day.

On Chinese New Year’s eve, family members (especially in northern China) participate in making jiaozi. The jiaozi is cooked the following day and will be eaten for breakfast, and sometimes for lunch. To many Chinese, eating dumplings on the New Year is as important as eating turkey on Thanksgiving is to many Americans.

Check out our Flavors of China series to learn more about Chinese cooking.

6. Attempting to appease the “gods”

The most traditional and/or superstitious of Chinese people do most of their cooking a full week before Chinese New Year, and then do no more cooking until after the third day of the New Year. These people believe that the “kitchen god” reports to heaven on each family a week before the New Year, and in order for the family to get a good report, they need to stop using fire during that time.

At midnight, at the start of the fifth day of the New Year, many Chinese set off a barrage of fireworks to welcome the “money god” and his arrival on earth for the coming year. Legend says that whoever sets off the loudest and largest amount of fireworks first will become rich during the coming year. The deafening fireworks on this night even surpass the lights and sounds of New Year’s Eve!

7. A time to clean

Chinese thoroughly clean their homes 2-3 days before the New Year. This deep cleaning includes dusting away cobwebs, cleaning windows and other chores that Americans might consider to be a part of “spring cleaning.” Tradition dictates that no cleaning can be done on the first day of the New Year.

Washing your hair that first day is even taboo, as it symbolizes washing away your good fortune. To that end, millions will flock to beauty shops in the days leading up to the New Year to have their hair washed or trimmed.

These traditions represent the tip of the iceberg as far as Chinese New Year is concerned. To read other articles and see other resources related to Chinese New Year, click on over to our Chinese New Year board on Pinterest (you do not have to be a member of Pinterest to see our Pinterest boards).

Recipe – Chinese Pork and Cabbage Dumplings



We’ve never seen a Chinese person turn down a chance to eat dumplings. Whether it is the flood of childhood memories that many associate with the dish, the taste of something hot and nutritious on a cold winter’s day, or just the idea of having a one-dish meal, dumplings (called “jiaozi”) constitute Chinese comfort food at its best. This recipe shows you how to make pork and cabbage dumplings, perhaps the most common and popular version of dumplings in China.


  • 100 (3.5 inch square) wonton wrappers*
  • 1 3/4 pounds ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 cups finely shredded Chinese cabbage

Ingredients for dipping sauce (per person):

  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar or brown fragrant vinegar
  • a drop of sesame oil


  1. In a large bowl, combine the pork, ginger, garlic, green onion, soy sauce, sesame oil, egg and cabbage. Stir until well mixed.
  2. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of pork filling onto each wonton skin. Moisten edges with water and fold edges over to form a triangle shape. Roll edges slightly to seal in filling. Set dumplings aside on a lightly floured surface until ready to cook. (See photo above.)
  3. To Cook: Bring a big pot of water to boil. When water is boiling, add dumplings. Boil until dumplings rise to the top. Alternately, steam dumplings in a covered bamboo or metal steamer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
  4. Give each person a serving of dipping sauce made with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce mixed with 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar or brown fragrant vinegar and a drop of sesame oil.


Holiday food

A steaming plate full of Chinese dumplings, or jiaozi, will be served to many a Chinese person during Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year falls on February 8th in 2016. Consider making this dumpling dish for your family or for your Chinese friends to celebrate Chinese New Year!

Learn more ways you can combine cooking and Christian outreach by reading “Your guide to hosting a Flavors of China party.” Do you have other ideas? We’d love to hear them!

*Wonton wrappers are usually available in U.S. grocery stores. They may be in the frozen-food section or in the produce section of your grocery store. They are a fairly common item, so ask your grocer for help if you cannot find them.

Chenzhou 郴州市

Chenzhou (chen-joe), located in the southeastern corner of Hunan near the Guangdong border, is home to more than 100 tourist spots. One of them, Suxian Hill, has the reputation of being “the 18th blessed land in China”. Chenzhou is the southern gateway into Hunan province and is a major supplier of energy to Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau. It is situated halfway between Changsha and Guangzhou.


In Chenzhou there is a legend about a little boy, Soo Yoo, who was born with special powers and then abandoned in a cave.  A white deer fed him and a crane gave him warmth.  Soo Yoo was good to his mother and told her there would be a plague.  To cure the plague, he told her to draw water from the well and boil it with tangerine leaves.  Because of Soo Yoo’s legacy, the people of Chenzhou are said to have good hearts and a gift for treating illnesses. How they need the Great Healer to change their good hearts into hearts that seek Him!

China_Hunan_Chenzhou.svgThere is also a fairy tale about a beautiful girl who lived in Chenzhou long ago. She accidentally swallowed a red string, and although she wasn’t married, she gave a birth to a boy. When he grew up, he became a doctor, saved a lot of lives and became a god. If they only knew the true God!

Chenzhou city is home to almost 800,000 people, less than one percent of whom know the Lord. Their history is rich with stories of those who have helped them, yet the One who is able to help them completely remains unknown to them.


Prayer Starters

  • Pray that Chenzhou will be a gateway for Christianity to fill Hunan province
  • Pray that the people of Chenzhou will have not only good hearts, but new hearts dedicated to serving the Lord.  Pray that they will know the true story of a baby, who was God, who came and gave His life to save them.
  • Pray that God will look down on Chenzhou and bless its peoples, making the city a truly “blessed land”.