Chinese New Year is not only a time for celebrations but also a time of new beginnings and intentions. A Chinese proverb states that all creations are reborn on New Year’s day, providing hope and energy for new good things to come into your life. According to Eastern beliefs, how a year begins is a clue to how it unfolds.
To help you find your good fortune for 2016, I have put together the following guide to some of the Chinese New Year customs and celebrations.
This year, on February 8th, the world will celebrate the beginning of a new lunar year. In the Chinese calendar, this is described at the 4714th year and is the Year of the Fire Monkey.
Millions of people (and not just the Chinese) are studying and reading the Chinese Almanac and calendar seeking to understand and benefit from the upcoming energies of 2016.
In China, the Lunar New Year is known as the “Spring Festival”, heralding the start of a new cycle and energies, both in heaven and on the earth. There is a full month of customs and traditions associated with this occasion. While some may seem odd to us in the West, they are steeped in ancient logic and custom.
In a nutshell, everything associated with New Year’s day should represent good fortune.
It is especially auspicious to be with people you love and who bring you joy.
Be careful with your actions, be selective of what you eat and be mindful of what you say on this day to ensure good fortune.
For single people, good fortune may mean love and romance. For others, it may mean good grades, increased prosperity, a job, better health, or improvement in existing relationships.
As you prepare for this holiday, think of the changes that you want to make in your life, then let the power of the new moon, and the New Year, make them happen.
Things to do Before Lunar New Year’s Eve (Feb. 7th)
- Give your home a good spring-cleaning just like your grandmother used to! Bring new energy and flow into your life! Getting organized and doing a thorough clean is a must. Clear away clutter and mess to make room for and welcome in new Qi and opportunities for the New Year.
- Decorate your home with symbols of good fortune. Use symbols appropriate to your own culture such as fresh flowers, flowering plants, or things that symbolize growth and happiness to you. Bamboo and plum and peach blossoms are considered particularly auspicious.
- Decorate with bright red (happiness), gold and orange (wealth and happiness). The color red is considered the most auspicious of colors in the Chinese Culture. Red is a sign of good luck because of its symbolic association with fire, the sun, brightness, and positive life energy.
- Place a bowl of fruit on your table. Oranges, kumquats, and tangerines symbolize good health and long life – tangerines with leaves intact symbolize long lasting relationships, and persimmons are associated with happiness and wealth.
- Many Chinese will purchase red banners or couplets with auspicious and prosperous New Year wishes and blessings and symbols of good fortune. Lucky slogan banners are written or purchased and hung, especially on the front door. Over the last few years, I have done this too, it’s fun and very symbolic. Think of it as a law of attraction exercise – what do you want to bring into your life in 2016?
- Get your haircut and new clothes, preferably with some red, for a brand new you when the year arrives.
- Clear out old stagnant energy. Pay up all your bills and begin the year with a clean slate. Start the New Year with as little debt as possible.
- Clear up old disputes and arguments to start the New Year moving forward.
- Prepare celebratory food. It’s a party! Chinese New Year’s Day is not a day for work. It is a day to eat food specially prepared for the day, often with names which correlate to good luck, fortune and plenty of money. Ideally, vegetarian food is taken on the first day of the New Year, and the most traditional dish is “Loh Hon Jai”, or Buddha’s Delight, a casserole prepared from a host of dried and fresh ingredients, most of them with names that have auspicious associations
Auspicious foods for the New Year’s Eve & Day feasts and their symbolic association are:
o Fish – abundance (typically served on New Year’s Eve)
o Long grain rice – long life
o Oranges/mandarins – gold plus good health and long life
o Oysters – prosperous business; “good things”
o Peaches – longevity
o Pineapple – prosperity
o Pomegranates – children
o Sticky rice balls – gold
o Noodles – longevity ( they should not be cut)
o Chinese New Year and prosperous cakes, (they look like golden nuggets)
o Persimmons – happiness and wealth
o Tangerines with seeds and leaves intact – symbolizing long-lasting relationships, and fruitful (as in having productive staff and children).
o Circular candy tray – (candy for sweet, circular for togetherness.)
o Lettuce – fresh new money
o Celery – perseverance and the capacity for hard work
o Dried seaweed, known as “faat choy” – increasing wealth
On the Eve of Chinese New Year (February 7th)
- Get together with close family members for a “reunion” dinner. A big, delicious dinner creates good luck for the family throughout the year. It also keeps the family close together.
- Pay respect to ancestors including household gods. Acknowledge the presence of ancestors because they are responsible for the fortunes of future generations
- At the stroke of midnight, it is customary to use firecrackers to engage in pot-banging to scare away evil and old energies by sound. Open windows and doors to allow the old year to leave and the New Year to enter. Celebrate with lots of noise and merry-making!
Everything associated with New Year’s Day itself should represent good fortune.
Watch the words you use; use sweet words and avoid foul language. Talk about your future and dreams, focus on positive thoughts. It is especially auspicious to be with people you love and who bring you joy. Be careful of your actions, be selective of what you eat and be mindful of what you say on this day to ensure good fortune.
Celebrate Chinese New Year with family and friends on New Year’s Day (February 8th)
- Start the New Year with new, bright-coloured clothes, especially auspicious red! One’s appearance and attitude on New Year’s Day is believed to set the tone for the rest of the year. Dressing all in black or white is a not considered auspicious.
- Ensure your first taste of the day is something sweet so that the year will bring you much good news.
- Greet everyone with kind words and happy wishes as this is thought to bring in a Year of Peace. Be careful not to curse or gossip. The Cantonese greet each other with “Gung Hei Fat Choy” which means “Congratulations! Your Wealth Increases!” Or “Sun Neen Fai Loh”, which means simply, “Happy New Year!”.
- Never cry or complain on New Year’s Day. It is believed that if you cry or complain on this day, that it is a negative omen of what’s to come for the rest of the year. It is best to not gossip, argue with or malign anyone today (really, isn’t it best to be like that every day?) The focus of today is upon the future, so engage in thoughts and activities of what you would like to see happen and remain positive
- Keep some doors and windows open throughout the day to allow the new luck to fill your home. Keep every part of your home well lit to ensure maximum luck!
- Don’t sweep the floor, remove garbage or use scissors or get a haircut today! You will end up sweeping or cutting away your good fortune. Some would go so far as to not wash their hair today as this may be washing away their good luck for the year.
- This is a day of celebration and visiting, paying respect to ancestors. This is not a day to work. Factories and workplaces in China remain closed for the two week period of Chinese New Year’s.
- Many Chinese will be giving offerings to the symbolic God of Happiness. In the West, you might be more comfortable practicing Gratitude. Create a place in your home with flowers and beautiful things as an altar to symbolize all that you are grateful for.
- It is customary for the Chinese to give two Lai See (Red Envelope with money enclosed) to each unmarried child. Because happiness comes in twos, do not give just one. This is the way of passing good luck to the next generation. In some Chinese communities, all married folks give Red Envelopes to all the unmarried children they know and meet during the New Year period. This can be quite a change and a burden for newly married couples!
- New Year’s Day is traditionally a vegetarian day, signifying no killing on the first day of the New Year.
Have fun—making these Chinese Lunar New Year rituals your own!
And remember… you’ll be celebrating amongst the millions of Asian people with these customs and rituals.
I wish you all the very best for a healthy and prosperous 2016 Gung Hei Fat Choy!
With Love and Best Wishes
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