The Chinese New Year Guide – Traditions and Symbolisms

Chinese New Year, as most call it in English, begins next Tuesday. The Spring Festival or Chūn Jié (春节 – Simplified, 春節 – Traditional ), as it is called in Chinese is an exciting time of the year in many Chinese speaking countries and Chinese communities around the world. We have tried to summarize the most important traditions and what they symbolize during this time of the year, but there are many more. This is the time when families come together to share meals and games together and people from all over China travel long distances to make it back home. If you are not Chinese and have a chance to take part in some of these traditions, here is a quick guide explaining their meaning that you can share with your kids. Remember about 1/5 of the global population celebrates Spring Festival, so it is huge.

The Year of the Pig is about to start

How do you prepare for Chinese New Year?

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Clean Up

People clean their houses thoroughly before Chinese New Year, to sweep the bad luck of the old year away, but you should not sweep during the first two days of the new year, as you might sweep the new luck away.


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Chou Chou Chic


Hair-Cut and New Clothes

You should not get your hair cut in the first month of the new year, so hairdressers are busy during the last days of the old year, chopping away. Also, it is customary to deck yourself in new clothes, often opting for lucky red underwear to go with it.


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Flower Power

Before Chinese New Year a visit to a flower market is a must, you will see abundant bouquets of Orange trees, orchids, narcissus and each has its specific symbolism. It is the Spring Festival after all!


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Orange and Tangerines

Symbol of good luck and prosperity. The trees are very popular at new year’s markets. They symbolize wealth and good luck, the vibrant orange colour is a happy colour that symbolizes good fortune.


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Orchids

Orchids symbolize purity, are elegant and delicate and they are supposed to bring many children or abundance.


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Peach and Plum Blossoms

The blossom symbolizes longevity, romance and prosperity. For the Spring Festival people decorate their homes with fruit blossoms to symbolise the start of a new cycle, wishing for an abundant crop for the new year. You are meant to be very lucky if the tree starts blooming on time for the new year.


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Narcissus or Daffodil

They represent good fortune, prosperity, and good luck. If the water narcissus blossoms exactly on the Chinese New Year day, it brings prosperity and good fortune the whole year.

And we could go on and on with the flowers…

 

What do you do during Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year lasts for 2 weeks, this year it starts on the 5th of February, 2019 and goes until the 19th of February, 2019, ending with the Lantern Festival. However, the main days of festivities are from the 5th-7th of February. During this period there are various customs or events that you might get a chance to observe or maybe even partake in.

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Red Envelopes

Hong Bao (红包- simplified Mandarin, 紅包- traditional Mandarin)
or Lai See (利市 – Cantonese)
Red envelopes are gifts given at social and family gatherings, but especially during Chinese New Year. Usually elder relatives or friends give red envelopes to younger, children, but also to unmarried members of the family. Kids love these of course and if you prefer not to fill with real money you can also fill with golden (for good luck) chocolate coins. Always use both hands when giving out or receiving a red envelope and it’s considered bad manners to open in front of others.


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Lion Dance and Dragon Dance

The Lion dance is a traditional dance in which acrobats move and dance to the sound of loud drums meant to chase away the evil spirits. Don’t forget to “feed” the lion a red envelope for good luck!

Dragons are ever present in Chinese celebrations, they have special powers because the can fly, swim and walk. During Chinese New Year, Dragon dances are performed to scare away the evil spirits, the longer the dragon the more luck it will bring to that specific community.


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Year of the Pig

This year is the year of the Pig. The twelfth and last of the Chinese zodiac signs. This is how in China people know exactly how old you are as soon as you say what sign you are. The pig is considered to be kind-hearted, loyal and fortunate, but somewhat gullible. And if you are a pig you should wear a red string as an amulet during the year.


All that is left to say is…

We wish you a very lucky year of the PIG!!

祝您猪年大吉 (Simplified Mandarin)

祝您猪年大吉 (Traditional Mandarin)

Zhù nín zhū nián dàjí (Pinyin)

Gong Xi, Gong Xi song so you can practice your Karaoke voices:

 


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