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Chinese Spring Festival Traditional Activities

Chinese Spring Festival Traditional Activities

Chinese Spring Festival is the most important festival in China. With great passion, Chinese people observe this annual event with diverse activities, some of which date back a thousand years. Here are the top nine things to do.

  1. Sweeping the House

From 23 December in the lunar calendar through to Chinese Spring Festival Eve, people reach for a brush and sweep their home.

The clean the floor, furniture and walls and throw away something old. It’s all about sweeping away the bad luck of the previous year and preparing for good luck ahead.

It’s not something that’s recommended on the first day of the Lunar New Year though, as this is seen as sweeping away the good luck and wealth that could be coming your way!

  • New Year Shopping

Shopping must be one of the biggest Chinese Spring Festival activities. During this period, almost 10 days before New Year’s Eve, it’s common to see crowds in shopping malls and markets.

People are out and about mainly buying new clothes, red decorations, meat, and snacks for their children and firecrackers.

Moreover, candies, peanuts and sunflower seeds are a must on the shopping list.

While some still like to go street shopping, others go online where e-commerce traders offer annual big discounts around this time.

  • Turning homes red

Red is the main colour for the festival, as it’s believed to be an auspicious for the Chinese New Year, denoting prosperity and energy - warding off evil spirits and negativity.

Every home is decorated with the most favoured shade, the bright red. Red lanterns, Chinese knots, Spring Festival couplets, 'Fu' character pictures all go up, along with red window paper-cuts with popular themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity.

Paste couplets (Chinese: 贴春联): is a kind of literature. Chinese people like to write some dual and concise words on red paper to express their new year’s wishes.

Red lanterns hang in streets; red couplets and New Year pictures are pasted on doors. 

  • Offering Sacrifices to Ancestors

Honouring the dead is a Chinese New Year’s tradition that’s kept to the word. Many Chinese people visit ancestors' graves on the day before the Chinese New Year Day.

  • Enjoying a Family Reunion Dinner on New Year's Eve

Home is the principal focus of the Spring Festival. Wherever they are, people are expected to return home to celebrate the festival with their families. 

The Chinese New Year's Eve dinner is known as the 'reunion dinner'. Big families of several generations sit around round tables and enjoy the food and time together. Generally, all the dishes are homemade, and possibly the most abundant of the year. In addition, fish must be on the table, because the word 鱼 (yú) has the same pronunciation as 余, which means “extra.” The common phrase is 年年有余 (Nián nián yǒu yú), meaning to have “yu” every year.

Here, the character for “extra” is interchangeable with “fish.” So, if you have fish every year, you’ll also have extra money, harvests and luck! 

  • Exchanging Red Envelopes

The red envelope (money) is called ya sui qian (压岁钱 /yaa sway chyen/), which means 'suppressing Sui [the demon] money'. Those who receive a red envelope are wished another safe and peaceful year. This involves married couples giving money to children and unmarried adults in them. It is also common for couples to give money to their parents.

The amount of money ranges from a couple of dollars to several hundred. Chinese superstitions favour amounts that begin with even numbers, such as eight (a homophone for "wealth"), and six (a homophone for "smooth").

In recent years, the custom has embraced modern technology , e-hongbaos (digital red packets) are now being sent on Chinese New Year's Eve through social media platforms such as WeChat and Alipay.

  • Stay up late and wait for the New Year

Most family members stay up late and wait to see in the New Year (守岁 / shǒu suì) after enjoying the reunion dinner.

Staying up late on New Year's Eve is a very old tradition of the Chinese Spring Festival. Usually, people sit around chatting until the clock chimes in the new year. Staying up late is also said to bring longevity to your parents.

  • Greeting to Each other

Waking up on the first day of the Lunar New Year, everybody dresses up.

Families start the day by saying greetings to their parents and then to their grandparents and other relatives, as well as going door-to-door to their neighbours and friends.

The act of greeting and blessing during Chinese New Year is called 拜年 (bài nián), which literally means to pay a visit for the New Years. You must visit the eldest in the family first.

"Guo Nian Hao" — which means "Happy New Year" — is a common Chinese New Year greeting. Chinese people also greet each other with blessings such as 恭喜发财 ("gōngxǐ fācái" in Mandarin) or ("Kung hei fat choi" in Cantonese), meaning "Wishing you a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year!" 

  • Visiting Relatives

Starting from the second day of the Chinese New Year, people visit their relatives and friends to exchange best wishes with each other. According to traditional customs, married couples visit the wife’s parents on the second day of the New Year.

When people visit relatives and friends, it’s polite to take gifts, such as local products and wines. In addition, newly-married couples and young children may receive red envelopes from their elders.