Like many traditional Chinese festivities, Chinese New Year is rich in customs and rituals. Among the different Chinese dialect groups, there are many similar and different Chinese New Year rituals for celebrations, though much of these rich traditional cultures, rituals, and customs have been diluted in mainland China since the Cultural Revolution.
However, in many countries and regions — such as Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Taiwan — overseas Chinese have preserved and kept intact many of these Chinese New Year rituals and customs.
Subscribe to our Newsletter!
Receive selected content straight into your inbox.
Most Chinese New Year rituals focus on the central themes of New Year celebrations and to affirm family unity, prosperity, good fortune, and good health for the rest of the year. Chinese elders often say: “A whole year’s plan begins in spring, and a whole day’s plan commences at dawn.” Hence, it is important for the Chinese to do all the correct things on New Year’s Day. For instance, it is considered bad luck if you break crockery on the first day. This signifies that your endeavors for the year could break or be unsuccessful.
Likewise, nobody is supposed to cry, be angry, or sad, or you will experience these negative emotions throughout the year. Children are encouraged to be obedient and docile on New Year’s Day. Everyone is reminded to be nice to each other and to be on their best behavior.
There are numerous interesting Chinese New Year rituals around prosperity and good fortune. On New Year’s eve, all house lights must be switched on to ensure Cai Shen (God of Fortune) can see your house in the dark and does not miss your family home when he bestows his blessings.
To “sweep in” the goodness of the year, families perform the ritual of doing three inward sweeps with a clean broom at the front door when the New Year begins. On the next day, no one is allowed to sweep the floor or do his laundry; otherwise, the family’s good fortune will be swept or washed away.
Traditionally, firecrackers are used to frighten the Nian monster. Nowadays, the ritual is performed to welcome the New Year and to dispel evil and negativity.
On the first day of New Year, married women go with their husbands and children to visit their parents-in-law to pay respects. On the second day, they take their families to pay respects to their own parents. For children, Chinese New Year is a great event. They get new clothes, new shoes, and of course, brand new money in little red packets, known as hong bao, from their parents, older relatives, and married friends of the family. Unlike the Western custom of giving presents, Chinese people give hong bao on New Year’s Day, birthdays, weddings, and other family occasions