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.
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).