As we celebrate Chinese New Year of the Dragon 2024, here are some of the customs and traditions which take place during Lunar New Year.
Chinese New Year – or Spring Festival – focuses on removing the bad and the old and welcoming in the new and the good. It is a time to worship ancestors, exorcise evil spirits and pray for good harvest. Celebrations including a dragon dance, fireworks – said to ward off evil spirits - temple fairs and flower market shopping are just some of the vibrant activities that take place.
In the run-up to the new year people give their homes a thorough clean before redecorating them with red lanterns, new flowerpots and furniture. There are different practices for cleaning the house over the New Year period. For instance, some people would not sweep the floor on New Year’s Day; anything collected from the broom should be kept inside the home, as throwing it out would mean parting with wealth for the coming year.
Food and drink play a significant role in the festivities. Members of the family come together to sit around a big table to have a New Year’s Eve dinner, known as Nian Ye Fan.
China is a huge country, so the food customs and favourite dishes vary in different regions. In many parts of Northern China, dumplings, which are said to symbolise wealth, are a popular choice for the New Year’s Eve dinner. Similarly, some families also eat a fish dish for the banquet, as it represents an abundance of wealth.
It is also tradition for families to burn incense to worship their ancestors. Older members of the family give younger children good luck pocket money known as Ya Sui Qian, which is contained in a red envelope (Hong Bao), which are presented as gifts during Chinese New Year celebrations.