Chinese New Year is increasingly being celebrated around the world. Wherever there’s a Chinese community, there will be CNY celebrations. While CNY is thought to have originated from China, it is a major festival in most Southeast Asian countries as well. Besides that, Chinatowns in western countries also organise celebrations during CNY. In this list, some may seem familiar, but those familiar items are a must-mention! Keep reading to find out what other things people do to celebrate Chinese New Year!
1) Pray/Offer Sacrifices
Offering sacrifices is an age-old tradition that dates back years and years ago. Taoists especially worship deities, and offerings such as fruits, sweets and roasted meat among other things are a means of giving thanks to the deities, and to pray for a safe, successful year ahead. On CNY eve, sacrifices are offered to ancestors in certain households as well. The Hokkien also celebrates the Jade Emperor’s birthday on the 9th day of the Lunar New Year, and preparations begin on the 8th night, also in the form of offerings.
2) Listen To A New Year Bell
Perhaps not in Malaysia, but the bell is a traditional symbol of Chinese New Year in certain places. Apparently, ringing a large bell drives away bad luck and brings good fortune. This is about ringing in the new year indeed!
3) Lou Sang
This is a Malaysia-and-Singapore must-do: tossing for prosperity. During the course of CNY, one can have so many of these with different groups of people, and there’s almost no CNY meal that doesn’t include lou sang. A variety of ingredients that represent auspicious things like wealth, health, prosperity and abundance among others are tossed with chopsticks at the start of the meal, and rumour has it the higher you toss, the better your year will be.
4) Watch CCTV New Year Gala
Applicable in China, apparently this is a tradition of sorts. After reunion dinner, families gather round the TV set to tune in to CCTV’s New Year Gala, usually starting at 8 pm. The program runs till past midnight, so it brings you straight into the new year. We can’t deny it could be a solid bonding method with your family members!
5) Chap Goh Mei
Otherwise known as the lantern festival, Chap Goh Mei literally means “night of the 15th” translated from Hokkien. In other words, it’s the last day of Chinese New Year. On Chap Goh Mei, depending on area, people pray, offer sacrifices and light and release lanterns. In Malaysia, we get some lanterns, but there’s also the practice of throwing Mandarin oranges into waterways, usually the sea. It’s a belief that those who are single will find love after performing this orange-throwing ritual. Nowadays, people have modified it and some write their numbers on the oranges to help speed up the “finding love” process.
6) Shehuo Festival
The Shehuo festival is prevalent in Shanxi, China and its provinces. It’s a highly festive occasion with songs, dances, acrobatics and other performances. As it includes an array of performances, it’s also a demonstration of talent and vitality, and showcases enthusiasm and love for life! Directly translated, it means the festival of earth and fire, and that the fire can burn away the bad.
7) Enjoy Food Variations
Food isn’t just a necessity, but it is also a culture and identity. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that different places will be eating different food during Chinese New Year. Here, we have lou sang, pomelo, Mandarin oranges and usually a sumptuous spread of seafood and meat. In north China, they have Chinese dumplings, and towards the south, they enjoy spring rolls and/or sticky rice cake instead.
Sure, it’s an unspoken rule and unbroken tradition that you go home for CNY, but also, it’s a good excuse to travel since it’s a holiday. More and more people are opting to travel during the Chinese New Year period, and we can’t say we don’t understand. If large crowds and pesky relatives are not your thing, you’d really be better off enjoying time the way you like it. But we think clear it with your parents first, at least? Also, it will be a good way to witness how other people celebrate CNY in the flesh!
9) Public Celebrations
We don’t get much of these here, but in China it’s a huge thing. In some parks and temple fairs, you would be able to see lion and dragon dances as well as other performances related to CNY. It’s a great way to celebrate with others, and revel in the vibes of CNY. Nothing brings people together than a common cause to celebrate!
10) Visit Temples
It’s a norm that some visit temples during the CNY period to pray and offer thanks to the various deities. Besides that, some temples that are more famous or larger in area are also decked out with CNY decor during the festive season. It’s not uncommon to see families or groups of friends visiting temples to check out decor, such as lanterns, or statues of the twelve Chinese zodiacs.
What about you? Do you or your family have your own tradition that is unique? Share how else you celebrate CNY in the comments below!