Chinese New Year is a traditional festival with a long history. It’s the most important holiday for Chinese people, and thus much attention has been paid to it since ancient times. Its preparation starts seven days before New Year’s Eve, from the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month. The activities and customs during the festival are listed according to the lunar calendar.
According to traditional customs, there are specific foods to prepare and rituals to perform on each day leading up to the Chinese New Year. We’ve put together a quick fact list of what to do every day before the Festival begins.
This year is 2021 — the Year of the Metal Ox. The Chinese New Year starts on the 12th of February. So let’s talk about how to prepare for the Chinese New Year. This is how the Chinese end the old year and bring in the New Year. These customs begin on the 23rd lunar day, which is February 4, 2021.
23rd Lunar Day
The family burns a paper effigy of the Kitchen God to send him to Heaven and report to the Jade Emperor whether the family members were naughty or nice.
24th Lunar Day
This is the day to begin cleaning before the end of the year, starting with the house. The word ‘dust’ in Chinese is a homophone for ‘old.’ The act of cleaning the house represents sweeping away bad luck from the past year, allowing for a new start.
25th Lunar Day
The Jade Emperor comes down to the human world and visits households.
26th Lunar Day
Prepare any meat for the New Year by visiting your local butcher or grocery store. There are 15 days worth of celebrating, so lots of food and vegetables are needed. In the past, people might take their ox, pig, or sheep to the butcher to slaughter on this day.
27th Lunar Day
It’s the day to make chicken dishes and go shopping for goods to prepare for the New Year.
28th Lunar Day
Make assorted cakes and steamed dumplings, write spring couplets, and make Fu Character and Chinese paper cuttings to decorate the home and keep away evil spirits.
29th Lunar Day
This is the day for sweeping the ancestral shrines to show our respect for Buddhas and Gods.
New Year’s Eve 30th Lunar Day
Depending on the moon cycle, New Year’s Eve either lands on the 29th or 30th of the 12th lunar month. Regardless, this day is also known as the 30th of the year.
This is the most important day for the whole family. Traditionally, people travel home for a family reunion, and dinner is a very formal occasion. people eat dumplings and have fish for dinner, which is supposed to bring good fortune and an overabundance of money for the new year. Both young and old stay up late to let off firecrackers and welcome in the New Year.
Chinese New Year is the biggest annual celebration. A hive of festivities take place during this period — parades and fireworks to traditional dragon dances and holidays starting on the first day of New Year.
New Year’s Day: Day 1
The first thing to do on the morning of New Year’s Day is to set off firecrackers to drive away evil spirits. Afterward, the Chinese will have the first meal of the year, which is as important as the reunion dinner for most Chinese people.
Most people choose to eat dumplings, hoping to have good fortune in the New Year, because a dumpling’s shape is similar to gold ingots, which was the currency used in ancient times. People in South China prefer to eat rice cakes, because rice cakes are a symbol of wealth.
Young people visit their elders, and in return, elders give them red envelopes with money inside for good luck. Traditionally, children would kneel to receive their red envelopes from their elders. And it was a custom to give and receive using both hands and never open the envelope in front of the gift giver.
It’s the time for married women to visit their birth parents. In ancient times in China, women usually didn’t visit their birth parents’ places much once they got married. Though nowadays women can do that at any time, this custom, to visit birth parents on Jan 2, remains.
This day is also called Goat Day, a day on which people cannot kill sheep or goats. In southern China, people think quarrels can easily happen on this day, so they don’t visit each other.
It’s the day to welcome the Kitchen God back.
People welcome the God of Wealth from all directions and routes. It’s a custom to eat dumplings on this day and set off firecrackers.
People drink and get soaked in holiday spirit.
Happy birthday to all people! It’s said that Chinese people were made on this day, so everyone celebrates this day as their birthday.
People free birds and fish to bring blessings.
It’s the birthday of the Jade Emperor. People have gatherings and play operas to celebrate in his honor.
It’s the day of Earth, symbolized by rocks. Any handling of rock products is forbidden on the day.
It’s Sons-in-Law Day. Fathers-in-law treat sons-in-law with leftovers from Jan 9th.
People begin to set up stalls and awnings in preparation for the Lantern Festival.
People in ancient times lit fires underneath stoves to get ready for the Lantern Festival.
It’s the birthday of the Goddess of Birth.
People celebrate the Lantern Festival today! New Year holidays are officially over.