Chinese New Year Traditions and How To Celebrate With Your Family!
I’ve been celebrating Chinese New Year since I was a child, but I didn’t always know what all the traditions meant. To me it just involved lots of food and getting dollar bills from my relatives in red envelopes. And yes, the traditions do involve those things, but it’s really about joining together with family and friends to welcome the new year with peace, prosperity and good luck. Now as a mom I believe it’s important to honor those traditions with my kids and teach them the importance of the meaning behind it.
So in case you were wondering, here’s a quick primer on what Chinese New Year is all about and simple ways you can celebrate with your family.
What is Chinese New Year?
It is one of the most important Chinese holidays and celebrated by many other Asian cultures as well. It marks the start of the new year based on the lunar calendar. 2012 is the Year of The Dragon. The Dragon is the most powerful of the 12 zodiac signs. It symbolizes power and change. Many are optimistic that it means better times ahead for 2012.
When Is It?
It falls on a different date each year between end of January and end of February, since it is based on a Lunar Calendar. This year it starts January 23rd. Celebrations go on for 15 days.
What are some of the traditions leading up to the new year?
Cleaning your house to sweep away any bad luck and welcome in the new year, a traditional Chinese feast with family on New Year’s Eve with symbolic foods. Maybe a new outfit, new haircut, new shoes to start fresh.
What is the symbolism behind the food?
Fish symbolizes abundance because the word fish also sounds like “extra”/”yu”, Noodles symbolize longevity because they are long, Dumplings represent prosperity-the half moon shape resembles traditional gold ingots. Fresh fruit symbolize life and new beginnings, oranges a symbol of good luck and fortune.
What is the Red Envelope for? “Hong Bao” Adults fill red envelopes with money to give to children as a symbol good luck and a blessing for the new year. Some even sleep on them overnight under their pillows for even more good luck.
Simple Ways To Celebrate
1. Learn Chinese-"Gong Xi Fa Tsai" (Mandarin) or "Gong Hay Fat Chow"(Cantonese) is how people greet others for Chinese New Year, but the translation is not just Happy New Year it means "Congratulations and Be Prosperous"!
2. Decorate- Red is the symbol for good luck and fortune. You can put up red decorations or wrap your front door with red paper.
3. Eat- Have your own Chinese feast. While the tradition is to make your own homemade dumplings or “jiao zi” you can also boil or pan fry some store bought ones, have some noodles for long life, or put out fresh fruit, especially mandarin oranges for good luck.
4. Crafts- Make your own “hongbao” red envelopes with your children. Just use some red paper and they can decorate it. Fill it with some dollar bills for fun!