5 Traditional Ways to Celebrate the Chinese New Year

| December 11, 2012

chinese year of the snake Like New Year’s Eve in the Western World, the Chinese New Year offers the promise of a fresh start. Whether you attend a lively festival in Chinatown or try your hand at traditional sticky rice cakes, here are five ways to usher in Chinese year 4711, the Year of the Snake. Visit DexKnows for a restaurant guide and listings near you.

1. Sweep out the old …

The Chinese calendar is based on a complex system of solar and lunar cycles. The Chinese New Year typically begins on the second new moon of the Western calendar, sometime between late January and mid-February. In 2013, this new moon is on Sunday, Feb. 10.

In the days leading up to the Chinese New Year, it’s traditional to clean and organize your home, which is symbolic of sweeping away inauspicious energies (hui qi) that may have accumulated during the previous year. Other ways of clearing the clutter in your life, especially emotional clutter, include paying off debts, making amends and letting go of old resentments.

On the day of the new moon and for the two weeks that follow, you can put away the broom and celebrate.

2. Share a festive meal

It’s customary for Chinese families to share a festive meal together on the eve of the new moon. In general, you should include a variety of dishes, a balance of flavors (salty, sour, sweet, bitter and spicy), and different colors and textures. If you’ve never tried them before, a few scoops of red bean or green tea ice cream are a refreshing way to top off a Chinese-style meal. You can probably find a pint or two at a local Asian grocery store.

3. Hand out lucky money

Another Chinese New Year tradition is to fill red paper envelopes (hong bao) with money and hand them out to children. This ritual, which symbolizes good fortune, prosperity and generosity, comes with a few caveats. For example, it’s impolite to open a hong bao in front of the person who gave it to you. The good wishes that the packet represents should be more important than the money inside. You can find hong bao envelopes on Amazon.com, or check DexKnows listings for local gift and novelty shops that may sell them.

4. Hang lanterns

Lantern Festival marks the 15th and final day of the Chinese New Year observance. Find colorful Chinese lanterns at your local home goods or crafts store or online. Hang them around your home and enjoy their cheerful light for the day.

5. Make some noise

Chances are there’s a Chinese New Year celebration in your local Chinatown or sponsored by a park district or Chinese cultural center. In addition to the traditional Lion Dance, performers light off firecrackers and beat drums to scare away bad spirits and misfortune. To make a Chinese New Year Drum with your kids, check out these instructions from TLC.

The Snake presides over the upcoming Chinese New Year, number six in the cycle of 12 animals in Chinese astrology. People born under this sign are generally thought to be good communicators, intelligent and even-tempered. If you’re so inclined, search the Web to learn more. In the meantime, let DexKnows help you plan the festivities for your Chinese New Year celebration.

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Category: New Year's

About the Author ()

Katy is a Chicago-based journalist with an eclectic background in print publishing, web design and paralegal work. She's been writing and editing web content full time since 2010.