The Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival), is celebrated worldwide. It’s the annual festival that marks the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar.
This year, (the Chinese year of the Ox), New Year falls on February 12th. So, if you’d love to embrace tradition and celebrate this auspicious occasion, we’ve got some great tips to get you into the spirit of things (even if you have to stay home).
1. Spring Clean
It’s customary for Chinese families to spring clean their homes on New Year’s Eve to remove any past year’s bad luck. According to tradition, families should not do any cleaning for at least the first two days of the New Year to avoid sweeping away the good luck collected by the festive firecrackers, red paper, and celebration wrappers.
2. Decorate In Red & Gold
In China, the colours red and gold represent happiness and good luck. That’s why during the festival, many Chinese families decorate their homes with this striking colour combo using paper cuttings, firecrackers, poetry scrolls, and signs bearing the Chinese character for good fortune.
Visit your local Chinese grocery store, where you’ll find a large selection of decorations to choose from. Alternatively, simply grab some red and gold streamers to hang around the house, or print out images of horses and the good fortune character and glue them onto red/gold papers.
3. Craft Paper Lanterns
Lanterns are everywhere you turn when at a Chinese New Year event. The Lantern Festival, where lanterns are lit, hung, or paraded through the streets, marks the last day of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Some say the colourful lanterns scare off demons, whilst others say they symbolise letting go of the past and looking to the future.
Have fun with the kids making your own Chinese lanterns and hang them inside and out the home. You can also secure electric candles or tea lights inside the lanterns and watch them glow.
4. Appease The Kitchen God
Seven days before the New Year, the “Kitchen God” is said to report to the Jade Emperor about the household. This is when you want to keep on your best behaviour and offer the god a sacrifice of fruit, candy, water, or other foods displayed on a dedicated altar.
5. Give Out Lucky Red Envelopes
Red envelopes filled with money are popular gifts during the New Year. If you also can't find red envelopes at a specialty store, pick up some regular red envelopes or make your own from red paper and then decorate them with gold pens and images.
6. Host A New Year’s Dinner
The main dinner feast is usually held on New Year's Eve, before the holiday officially begins at midnight. You don't have to create complicated Chinese recipes for your New Year feast, instead, choose simple foods that have special meaning.
Here are a few to inspire you:
• Long, uncut noodles (symbolises long life)
• Fish, chicken, or other small animals, served whole and cut at the table (attracts unity and abundance)
• Dumplings (symbolises prosperity, as they resemble gold ingots)
• Red chilies (brings good luck)
• Rice (ensures harmony)
• Jiu, a traditional hard liquor, and daikon, the Chinese radish, (symbolises longevity)
Don't have time to cook? Then it’s still ok to just order traditional dishes from your local Chinese take-out.
7. Eat Oranges & Mandarins
Oranges are a must-have when celebrating the New Year as they symbolise good luck, good fortune and abundance. You can buy mandarins, oranges, tangerines, or clementines, to snack on during the day or after meals. Better still, display them in bowls as decoration or give them to family and friends as gifts (in addition to red envelopes).
8. Celebrate At Midnight
After the New Years dinner, its traditional for families to stay up well past midnight to bring in the New Year by either watching or launching fireworks. This is known as “shou sui” and is believed to drive away evil spirits.
Whilst fireworks are a tempting idea, remember that they are illegal in Australia. So you can celebrate with a whole host of party poppers and sparklers instead. They say the person who launches the first New Year’s firework (or in this case. . sparkler) will receive a special dose of good luck!