The New Year greeting in Chinese is “xin nian kuai le”
The phrase literally means “Happy New Year.” But in Hong Kong and other Cantonese-speaking regions, it’s more common to say “gong hei fat choy.” In Mandarin Chinese, it’s “gong xi fa cai” (恭喜发财). It means “congratulations on the fortune.”
Celebrated all around the world, the spring festival or Chinese Lunar New Year lasts 20 days and starts today, February 5th!
The Spring Festival causes the largest human migration in the world
The most important part of Chinese New Year is the family reunion. Everyone should come back home for the New Year’s Eve dinner. But since in modern China, most elderly parents live in rural villages while their children work in the cities. The migration back home and to go on vacation is called chunyun (春运), or Spring Migration.
The most fireworks are set off in the world that night
Firecrackers are supposed to scare off monsters and bad luck. So people stay up on Chinese New Year’s Eve and set off firecrackers at midnight. In the morning, firecrackers are used again to welcome the new year and good luck.
No showering, sweeping or throwing out garbage allowed!
Showering isn’t allowed New Year’s Day. Sweeping and throwing out garbage isn’t allowed before the 5th. This is to make sure you don’t wash away the good luck!
On the other hand, there’s a day before the Spring Festival dedicated to cleaning. This day is to sweep the bad luck away and make room for the good.
What else is taboo during Chinese New Year?
- Hair cutting (before February 2)
- Using scissors, knives and other sharp things
- Arguing, swearing
- Saying unlucky words (such as “death” and “sickness”)
- Breaking things
Children receive lucky money in red envelopes
In other cultures, children receive gifts for holidays. Gifts are also exchanged during the Spring Festival. But Chinese children receive something else too—red envelopes.
Also called red packets or pockets, they include money. This money is supposed to help transfer fortune from the elders to the kids. They can also be given between bosses and employees, co-workers, and friends.
With the development of technology, digital red pockets are the trend now. People like to send one into group chats and watch the others fight for the money. This is called qiang hongbao (抢红包), or literally “snatching red pockets”.
The Chinese decorate everything red for Chinese New Year
Every family will deck their homes in this color. Do you remember the story about Nian? Firecrackers aren’t the only thing that scared the monster away. Red is also an invaluable weapon, and used in nearly all Chinese New Year decorations.
The Chinese will hang up red lanterns and strings of (real or fake) chili peppers, paste red paper onto doors and windows, and more!
New clothes are also believed to bring good luck and start over fresh. People will add new red clothing to their Spring Festival wardrobe too.
Every year has a zodiac animal
Western horoscopes include 12 zodiacs, one for each month. There are 12 Chinese zodiacs as well, but the animal is for the entire year.
2019 is the year of the pig. Some of the animals (such as Rat, Snake, Dog and Pig) aren’t normally well-liked in Chinese culture. But as a zodiac, their positive traits are bestowed on people born that year.
They play a much bigger role than in Western cultures. Your animal can decide your career, health and relationship success. Make sure you find out what zodiac animal you are!
Chinese New Year ends with the Lantern Festival
The first full moon of the (lunar) year is the Yuanxiao Festival (元宵节—yuán xiāo jié) or Lantern Festival (灯节—dēng jié). Though family is still important, it’s still a night of partying and freedom.
In ancient times, girls weren’t allowed to venture outside by themselves. But on this night, they were able to walk around, moon-gaze and look at the beautiful lanterns. Because of this, it’s also known as Valentine’s Day in China.
Which ever way you celebrate – we wish you a good new year full of health and prosperity! “gong hei fat choy.”
Tamara & Shannon