Part 2: New Year’s Eve 除夕夜
1 Enjoying a Reunion Dinner
The New Year’s Eve Feast is a ‘must have’ dinner with all family members reuniting. Chinese try very hard to make this family event, often traveling long distances.
People from north and south China eat different foods on this special occasion, and many New Year foods are symbolic. In northern China a traditional dish for the feast is jiaozi (dumplings). They are shaped like old Chinese ingots, symbolizes wealth.
Southern Chinese eat niangao (sticky rice cake) on this special day, because niangao sounds like ‘yearly higher’, symbolizing improvement.
2 Setting up Firecrakers and Fireworks
Fireworks will be launched to celebrate the coming of the New Year as well as to drive away the evil. It is believed that the person who launched the first firework of the New Year will obtain good luck. Many people attend or watch the public and private firework displays from their windows.
3 Red Packets/ Envelopes
The Red packet is a red envelope with money in it, which ranges from one to a few thousand Chinese yuan. Usually the red packet is given by adults, especially married couples, and elderly to young children in New Year days. It was believed that the money in the red packet will suppress the evil from the children and, keep them healthy.
App-sent/received ‘red envelopes’ appeared in recent years, and they quickly became the most popular New Year activity among the young. Many young people spend most of their New Year holiday time exchanging cyber money via red envelope apps for fun.
4 Watching CCTV’s New Year Gala
It’s become a Chinese custom for many familes to watch the CCTV New Year Gala while having their dinner. The gala starts at 8 pm and ends at midnight when the New Year arrives, featuring traditional folk, and pop performances from China’s best singers, dancers, and acrobats.
Part 3: Lunar New Year’s Day 初一
1Putting on New Clothes and Extending New Year Greetings 穿新衣，拜新年
On the first day of the New Year, Chinese put on new clothes and wish each other good luck and happiness in the New Year. It is customary for the younger generation to visit their elders, and wish them health and longevity.
In recent years, a new way to do New Year greetings has appeared, especially among the young. Busy people who don’t have time to visit their friends or relatives send a WeChat red envelope or a text message instead.
2 Offering Sacrifices to Ancestors
Ancestor worship varies widely across China — from sweeping tombs in the wild to worshiping ancestors in ancestral halls or temples. Many (especially rural) people offer sacrifices to their ancestors in the main hall of the house, where an ancestor altar is displayed. Then family members kneel and bow in front of the wall-mounted shrine, from the oldest to the youngest.
This custom has been practiced in China every year for thousands of years. Offering sacrifices to ancestors shows respect, piety, and missing departed relatives on such a special festival. It is also believed that ancestral spirits will protect their descendants and make them prosperous.
3 Watching Lion and Dragon Dances
Lion dances and dragon dances might be seen too on New Year’s Day. Once very popular in China, they are reappearing in many places. They are more popular in Hong Kong and Macao.
The fifteenth day of the New Year is the Lantern Festival. It is the traditional end of the Spring Festival celebrations. People send glowing lanterns into the sky while others let floating lanterns go in the sea, on rivers, or set them adrift in lakes.