Chinese New Year Customs
The most important New Year custom is for married couples to give lucky money called ‘lay-see’ to unmarried relatives, especially children. ‘Lay-see’ is a red packet containing ‘lucky money’ which people believe will bring luck to both the receiver and giver. Older family members must also give lucky money to all those who are younger in the family, including those who are married. Kung hei fat choy!
Full Moon Chinese New Year
The Chinese Ancestors
The first day of Chinese New Year starts with the new moon, and the last day known as Lantern festival, celebrated with night lantern displays, ends 15 days later on the full moon. New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve are celebrated with family. Traditionally, family celebrations were religious affairs, given in honor of the household and ancestors.
The most important religious ritual, was the sacrifice to the ancestors. Loved ones, dearly departed are remembered with greatest respect, as they are responsible for the present and future good family fortune.
The family celebration on New Year’s Eve is known as the “surrounding the stove” or weilu. This comprises of a dinner arranged for the spirits of the ancestors, together with the living and represents past and present, and one strong community.
Chinese New Year
- The 15 days of Chinese New Year
- Day one: The first day of the lunar New Year. The gods of heaven and earth are welcomed and meat is avoided to promote longevity and happiness.
- Day two: Prayers are sent to the gods and ancestors. Dogs receive extra kindness and are well fed; today is the birthday of all dogs.
- Day three and four: Son-in-laws pay respect to their bride’s parents.
- Day five: Named Po Woo, this day is spent at home to welcome the God of Wealth. It is bad luck to visit anyone on this day.
- Days six to ten: The Chinese are now free to visit their loved ones, and pray for good fortune in the temples.
- Day seven: The birthday of all humans celebrated with a drink made by the farmers from seven types of vegetable. Raw fish is eaten to promote success, and noodles for longevity.
- Day eight: Prayers are sent at midnight from the Fujian people, to Tian Gong, the God of Heaven.
- Day nine: Offerings are made to the jade Emperor.
- Days 10 to 12: Invites are sent to friends and relatives, to visit for dinner.
- Day 13: Simple foods are eaten so as to detox after rich foods at friends and relatives.
- Day 14: Time is taken for preparation for the Lantern Festival celebration on the 15th night.
- Day 15: Jai, a vegetarian dish is enjoyed by the family.
Jai Traditional Vegetarian Dish
Traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day, Jai consists of root or fibrous vegetables. The ingredients consist of foods that represent good fortune. Jai will include lotus seed, representing the hope for many male offspring, ginko nut, representing silver, black moss seaweed, the hope for wealth, dried bean curd, wealth and happiness and bamboo shoots for good wishes for everything. White is an unlucky colour for New Year, therefore any white foods such as tofu is avoided.
Chinese New Year traditions
All debts must be paid by New Year’s Day. Nothing should be lent on this day – anyone who does so will be lending all the year.
One should not use bad language, unlucky words, negative terms and the word ‘four’, which sounds like the word for death.
Death and dying are never mentioned and ghost stories are totally taboo.
References to the past year are avoided as everything should be turned toward the New Year and a new beginning.
It is believed that if you shouldn’t cry as to cry on New Year’s day means the coming year will be sorrowful. For this reason children are not told off on this day.
On New Year’s Day, you are not supposed to wash your hair or clean the house, for fear that good luck will be washed and swept away.
Shooting off firecrackers on New Year’s Eve is the Chinese way of sending out the old year and welcoming the New Year.
On the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, every door in the house, including windows, must be opened to allow the old year to go out.