An Introduction to Celebrating Chinese New Year

By Altiné Moumouni
Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is a time for family and friends to gather and celebrate
Chinese New Year

Currently, we are on a long winter break from January 9th to February 3rd. And during this period, so many amazing festivities happen in China, one of which is the Chinese New Year celebration. 

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival (2023 is the Year of the Rabbit), is a time for family and friends to gather and celebrate. It is also an important holiday in many Asian countries, including China, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, North and South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Brunei.

When I was in Toronto, Canada, I remember we celebrated the Chinese New Year with decorations and some activities. It is also celebrated in some places with parades, fireworks, and other cultural activities. 

Whether you are in China or not, if you are interested in learning more about the Chinese New Year, here is an introduction. 

Gift-giving and decorating 

A major part of the Chinese New Year is gift-giving. It is customary to give “lucky money” in red envelopes as gifts during the holiday season to bring good luck and fortune. 

In China, red symbolizes joy, happiness, and good luck, so decorating your home with red lanterns or banners can be a great way to welcome the Year of the Rabbit with optimism. 

It is also common to receive digital red envelopes via WeChat. Generally, Chinese managers also give digital red envelopes through WeChat. I think the amount doesn’t really matter; what counts is the gesture. 

Additionally, hanging pictures of fish on walls or doors is also said to bring prosperity into the home; it is believed that fish represent abundance because they always have plenty of food in their environment. 

I received a lot of red envelopes, and I can tell you that it is heartwarming to receive them. 

Culinary celebrations 

Chinese cuisine has become increasingly popular around the world, but there are several dishes that are specific to celebrating Chinese New Year. 

These dishes include dumplings (which symbolize wealth) and nian gao (a sweet cake made from glutinous rice flour). 

A traditional meal includes these dishes as well as other symbolic foods, such as: 

  • chicken (for family togetherness)
  • greens (for a prosperous life)
  • fish (to signify an increase in wealth)

Festive activities                        

Dragon dances are extremely popular during Chinese New Year celebrations; historically, dragon dances were used to ward off bad luck or evil spirits. 

Yesterday, there were dragon dances nearby my place, and I loved it. I also assisted in some firework displays lighting up the night sky with vibrant colors and loud noises.

A Chinese friend of mine also told me she assisted in lion dance performances where people dressed up as lions accompanied by drums and cymbals. 

I learned that, according to legend, lion dance performances are meant to scare away any demons lurking around at this special time of year.  

How to celebrate the Chinese New Year if you aren’t in China

If you decide to celebrate the spring festival, you will need food, drinks, and festive decorations. 

Food and drinks 

We all know that food and drinks are an important part of any celebration, and the Chinese New Year is no exception. 

If you plan to celebrate the Chinese New Year, I suggest you serve a selection of traditional dishes like sweet-and-sour chicken (you can also try lamb or beef) or steamed dumplings. 

And remember to make some traditional Chinese desserts to accompany your meal. You can also serve popular drinks like bubble tea or jasmine tea, which young people often enjoy during the spring festival. 

Festive decorations

Festive decorations are essential to celebrating the Chinese New Year. I suggest you pick up some paper lanterns or red banners to decorate your walls; these will add a nice pop of color and create a festive atmosphere for your party. 

You can also hang up calligraphy scrolls with messages wishing your guests (or hosts) good fortune for the coming year. These decorations will help set the tone for a fun and memorable celebration for you, your family, and your friends. 

Wrapping up

Chinese New Year is an amazing opportunity for families and everyone to come together and reflect on the past year while looking ahead at the coming year. 

From giving gifts and decorating homes with bright colors to sampling traditional dishes like dumplings or nian gao and participating in festive activities like dragon dances or lion dances, there are plenty of ways to celebrate this important holiday. 

There is so much to experience during Chinese New Year festivities; I personally create an unforgettable experience to bring back home.

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Written by Altiné Moumouni for Teflnet January 2023
Altiné is from Toronto, Canada, and currently teaches mathematics at a high school in Guangzhou, China. He has a master's degree in International Economics and Finance from Ryerson University in Canada and is passionate about helping people worldwide through his blogs. He writes about TEFL Teaching and Health and Fitness. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, running, traveling, and anything that allows him to experience the beauty of nature. You can find him at altinify.com.
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