Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the New Year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the New Year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade.The Chinese New Year Celebrations span across 15 days with each day having its individual significance.
New Year Pre-Festival Activities
- From the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month: extensive house-cleaning, cooking, shopping and buying gifts.
Last night of the 12th lunar month:
- New Year’s Eve is a time for family get-togethers for eating, catching up and shou sui(staying up all night), waiting for the new year.
- At midnight, it’s a custom to eat jiao zi (dumplings), because the word jiao ziis similar to the ancient word for new replacing the old. The crescent shape of the dumpling is also similar to ancient money and the image of plates piled high with the dumplings lets people imagine heaps of money being brought to the table symbolizing wealth in the new year.
- Also at midnight, it is customary to set off firecrackers. This was traditionally done to scare away demons but in modern times is a ritual of merriment and pyrotechnics.
From New Year’s Day Forward
- Day One, New Year’s Day (the first day of the first lunar month):
- Traditionally, one welcomes the gods from the heaven and earth. Ming and Qing emperors would perform a grand ceremony at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Nowadays…
- Elders give children ya sui, or gifts of money. The money is put into a lovely red envelope, called a hong bao, that is usually decorated with new year’s wishes, and given to happy children.
- Some Chinese might give up meat for the day.
- No one cleans! Cleaning on New Year’s Day is serious bad luck, you might sweep all the good fortune out the door.
- Day Two: Prayers to ancestors are added to prayers to the gods. It’s believed that this day is the birthday of all dogs, so it’s better to be extra kind to dogs on this day as well.
- Days Three & Four: Sons-in-laws pay respect to their in-law families.
- Day Five: Everyone stays home to wait for and welcome the God of Wealth. It’s bad luck to visit anyone on this day.
- Day Six to Ten: Families go out to visit relatives and friends.
- Day Seven: It’s a special day for farmers and it’s also supposed to be the birthday of all mankind. Eating noodles is traditional to ensure long life.
- Day Ten to Twelve: Now that the visiting is over, it’s time to invite family and friends over for dinner.
- Day Thirteen: Finally! A break in the lavish meals! One is supposed to eat simply on the thirteenth day of New Year.
- Day Fourteen: Time to prepare for day Fifteen, the Lantern Festival.
- Day Fifteen: Yuanxiao, or Lantern Festival. The Lantern Festival, celebrated on the night of the first full moon, also marks the end of the Chinese New Year holiday period. Chinese people light lanterns, play riddle games and eat sticky rice balls.