Understanding the Chinese New Year: 6 – Traditional Festive Activities

Understanding the Chinese New Year: 6 – Traditional Festive Activities

As we explore the Chinese New Year it is essential to delve into the rich array of rituals and traditions that define this festive season. These customs, steeped in centuries of history, are not just celebratory practices but also a means to honor cultural heritage, familial bonds, and hopes for the future.

Cleaning and Preparing the Home

Cleaning the Home for Chinese New Year
Cleaning and Preparing the Home for Chinese New Year
The New Year cleaning symbolizes sweeping away the old and making way for the new. Families thoroughly clean their homes to remove bad luck and invite good fortune. This ritual is done before the New Year’s Eve to avoid sweeping away the incoming luck.

Decorating with Auspicious Symbols

Decorating with Couplets & Auspicious Symbols for Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year Decorations

Homes and streets are adorned with decorations primarily in red, symbolizing good luck and happiness. Common decorations include 春联 (chūnlián) or Spring Couplets, paper cutouts, and images of the zodiac animal of the year. Lanterns and knots are also popular for adding festive cheer.

Reunion Dinner

Reunion Dinner for Chinese New Year
Reunion Dinner for Chinese New Year

Perhaps the most significant event is the New Year’s Eve reunion dinner, known as 團年飯 (tuánniánfàn). It’s a feast with various dishes symbolizing prosperity, longevity, and family unity. This meal is a cherished time for family bonding and often includes traditional foods like fish ( yú), symbolizing abundance, and dumplings (餃子 jiǎozi), symbolizing wealth.

Red Envelopes and Gifts

Hong Bao or Red Envelope for Chinese New Year
Hong Bao or Red Envelope for Chinese New Year
The tradition of giving red envelopes (紅包, hóngbāo), filled with money, is a significant part of the festival. These are typically given as a form of gratitude, blessing and good luck. The act represents the transfer of fortune and good wishes for the new year.
Lion Dance Red Envelope for Chinese New Year
Red Envelope for Lion Dance
Red envelopes are also given to the Lion / Dragon troupe to help fund the expensive materials used in such demonstrations, and as a sign of appreciation for their effort in making these special moments even brighter.

Fireworks and Firecrackers

Firecrackers on Chinese New Year
Firecrackers on Chinese New Year
Historically, firecrackers were used to scare away evil spirits and the mythical beast, Nian. Today, the loud bursts of fireworks at midnight continue this tradition, marking the start of the new year and warding off misfortunes.

Visiting Relatives and Friends

Visiting family and friends for Chinese New Year
Visiting family and friends for Chinese New Year
The days following New Year’s Day are reserved for visiting relatives and friends, known as 拜年 (bàinián). This tradition strengthens community and familial ties and is an opportunity to exchange good wishes and gifts. It also includes your extended family, like your Kung Fu / Tai Chi family.

The Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival
Lantern Festival
The 15th day of the first lunar month marks the end of the celebrations with the Lantern Festival. Streets come alive with colorful lanterns, and sweet rice dumplings are enjoyed, symbolizing family unity and completeness.

These customs and traditions of the Chinese New Year are not only acts of celebration but also a deep-rooted expression of cultural identity and continuity. They reflect the values, beliefs, and hopes of the Chinese people, bridging generations and keeping the essence of the festival alive.

In our next blog post, we will explore the symbolic meanings behind the traditional foods of Chinese New Year, revealing how each dish is a blend of flavor, culture, and auspiciousness.

Stay tuned for our next post, where we will learn more for a deeper understanding of this extraordinary festival.

Sincerely (保拳礼, Bǎo Quán Lǐ),

Shifu Roberto Baptista 

Scroll to Top