Chinese New Year Traditions
In preparation for the new year, the Chinese will clean their houses and put up red decorations and lanterns.
The celebrations then officially begin with a New Year’s Eve family dinner, during which fish and dumplings are served to encourage prosperity.
Shou Sui, which translates as “after the New Year’s Eve dinner,” follows the traditional feast, where families stay up all night and gather at midnight for fireworks to banish evil.
Adults usually give children red packets of money on Chinese New Year to help them avoid evil and wish them good health.
Taboos on Chinese New Year’s Day
There are many superstitions surrounding Chinese New Year. These are to be avoided on the first day of the festival:
- Medicines: Taking medicines on the first day of the lunar year means that you will be sick for a whole year.
- Porridge: It is believed that only poor people have porridge for breakfast – and people don’t want to start the year “poor”.
- Laundry: People do not wash clothes on the first and second day, as these two days are celebrated as the birthday of Shuishen (水神, the water god).
- Washing hair: Hair should not be washed on the first day of the lunar year. In the Chinese language, hair (发) has the same pronunciation and character as ‘fa’ in facai (发财), which means ‘to get rich’. Therefore, it is seen as not good to “wash away your fortune” at the beginning of the new year.
- Sharp Objects: The use of knives and scissors should be avoided as any misfortune is believed to lead to unfavorable things and the depletion of wealth.
- Going out: A woman is not allowed to leave her house or else she will be plagued with bad luck all year round. A married daughter is not allowed to visit her parents’ house because it is believed to bring misfortune to the parents and cause economic hardship to the family.
- The Broom: If you sweep on this day, your wealth will also be swept away.
- Crying Children: A child’s crying is believed to bring bad luck to the family, so parents do their best to keep children as happy as possible.
- Theft: If your wallet is sorted out, it is assumed that your entire wealth will be stolen within the next year.
- Debts: No money may be lent on New Year’s Day and all debts must be paid by New Year’s Eve. If someone owes you money, don’t go to his house and demand it. Anyone who does that will have bad luck all year round.
- An empty rice pot: An empty bowl can cause serious anxiety as stopping cooking during the New Year period is considered a bad omen.
- Damaged clothing: Wearing worn-out clothing can cause more bad luck all year round.
- Killing things: Blood is considered a bad omen, which will cause misfortune, such as a knife wound or a bloody disaster.
- Monochrome fashion: White or black clothing is prohibited as these two colors are traditionally associated with mourning.
- Giving certain gifts: Bells, scissors and pears all have bad meanings in Chinese culture.
How Chinese New Year is Celebrated in the UK
Each year, the biggest celebrations outside of Asia traditionally take place in London, with thousands of people celebrating Chinese New Year in the capital.
Colorful floats usually take to the streets of the West End and Chinatown, along with dragon and lion dances, as part of the lively Chinese New Year parade.
In the past, London residents and tourists alike could enjoy family-friendly entertainment in Leicester Square, cultural activities and traditional food in Chinatown, and live performances in Trafalgar Square.
Visitors to Chinatown have also had the opportunity to take a selfie with one of the Chinese zodiac animals, while in Manchester, the annual Dragon Parade makes its way through the city.
However, celebrations may be more muted this year in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Chinese New Year Recipes
From what vinegar to use to the ideal noodles and fried packets, Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan discuss the best ingredients, spices and sauces to create the most authentic flavors and textures.
This Shanghainese dish is made with thick, springy noodles like fresh Japanese udon, given a dark caramel hue from soy sauce and refreshed with barely cooked vegetables.