The New Year is always an exciting moment in Asian cultures, especially in China. Many Chinese New Year beliefs and superstitions are celebrated every year across the world. While most of these activities are centered in China, immigrants around the world have brought these festivities to new lands.
As a result, it is possible to experience Chinese New Year traditions superstitions just about anywhere, including New York City and in the heart of Europe. If you know a family or a friend who celebrates these traditions, it is important to know where they originate and their cultural significance.
The Celebrated New Year Starts Later
While China follows the universally accepted calendar that states the New Year starts on January 1, their traditional celebration of the New Year starts on January 27 and lasts until February 2. Festivities celebrate a successful year and reward celebrants with rest, some fun, and time with the family. Like with many Chinese holidays, the celebrations are often quite involved and elaborate.
Before touching on these aspects, we will discuss the different animals that represent years on the Chinese calendar. Anyone who has eaten at a Chinese restaurant has likely had a placemat that included these animals and descriptions of their traits. Celebrations for the New Year will vary based on the animal represented in that year.
The Chinese Year Animals
Chinese new year superstitions center around the symbolic animal associated with each year. Twelve different animals go through a 12-year cycle. These include the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Each animal has character traits associated with those born in that year. However, the animal also indicates the type of year that may occur.
For example, the year of the dog (which will happen again in 2018) is associated with loyalty, steady progress, and friendliness. By contrast, the year of the ox is related to hard work, struggle, and slower success. That doesn’t mean it is a negative year, as each animal has different positive and negative traits that inform the year.
Traditional and Modern Celebrations
The most common traditional celebration for the Chinese New Year is a reunion dinner with as many members of the family as possible. As traditional superstition states that this is a time of togetherness, those of Chinese descent work hard to get home in time to see their families.
Other Traditional Celebrations
Some popular traditional Chinese New Year activities include giving a variety of gifts to each other. These include red envelopes, firecrackers, new clothes, and various decorations. Red is an auspicious color for most of the Chinese culture, while envelopes are considered a promise of something positive and good. As a result, red envelopes are seen as a very auspicious gift.
New clothes and decorations are another way of celebrating the change of the new year and preparing for its challenges. Firecrackers are a powerful Chinese symbol of excitement and success. In most areas, fireworks presentations are likely to occur. Once the New Year clock strikes, fireworks go off to welcome in the new year. These displays are often as large, if not larger, than the Fourth of July celebrations in America.
Every town in the country is decorated in red, including red lanterns hanging from lamp posts and doorways. Traditional dragon and lion dances will also be performed to celebrate the upcoming year. Symbolic foods are eaten during this celebration, particularly fish, as it is believed to bring good luck.
Activities That Must Be Avoided
On a related note, certain things cannot be done during the New Year festival. These activities include avoiding cleaning or washing hair or the home during the first three days of the festival. The cry of a child during this time is considered a sign of bad luck, so children are very spoiled during this time. It is also seen as bad luck to beg during the celebration.
Younger generations of Chinese people are using the Internet to ring in a new year. They will surf the web, chat with friends, have sleepovers with the same friends, and send cell phone messages as a way of connecting with others. One popular modern celebration technique is sending red envelopes online in a digital format. These activities are not frowned upon by older generations, as the honor the traditions and expand on them in new ways.
Learning More About Chinese New Year Traditions
As you can see, Chinese New Year superstitions are very extensive and intriguing. If you want to learn more about Chinese superstitions and traditions, please don’t hesitate to look at other sections of our site. We have done extensive research to bring you the most accurate and up-to-date information on intriguing superstitions and beliefs.