Chinese New Year: Customs and Practices “风俗习惯“(fēng sú xí guàn)

If you plan on staying in China during the Chinese New Year, it is helpful to be aware of some very common customs and practices, called 风俗习惯(fēng sú xí guàn) in Chinese. Understanding the Chinese tradition will make one’s experience celebrating Spring Festival much more enriching.

FOOD

Food is a very important part of any culture, and the Chinese sure love to feast! An especially important time of year for the family is to have dinner together on lunar New Year’s Eve, called, 除夕(chúxī)
. New Year’s eve dinner usually includes chicken and fish. Also a very common custom in the mainland is to watch the CCTV New Year’s Gala (中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会 “Zhōngguó zhōngyāng diànshìtái chūnjié liánhuān wǎnhuì”), which features drama, dance, and song performances.

RED PACKETS 红包 (hóng bāo)
Red packets contain money and are given by adults to young children. The amount given should usually be of even numbers, as money in odd number amounts are given during funerals. However, the amount in the red envelopes should never add up to 4, as the word four is a homophone for death, 死 (sǐ). A popular amount adds up to 8. While the south of China follows this tradition, people in the north will give amounts of 50 or 100 yuan, not taking into consideration odd and even numbers.

GIFTS 礼物 (lǐwù)
Also customary when going to one’s home is to bring gifts such as fruit, candy, chocolate, and cake.

FIREWORKS 放炮(fàngpào)
A very important part of Chinese tradition during the lunar New Year celebration is to use fireworks. At 12am, on lunar New Year’s Eve, fireworks will begin to go off. Don’t expect to sleep with the amount of noise that is produced from massive amounts of fireworks being set off. The sky is well lit with fireworks at this time. 15 days from this date, Lantern Festival 元宵节 (yuánxiāojié), fireworks are set off again.

CLOTHING
Many will wear red clothing, as red is the symbol of good fortune and scaring away evil spirits.
In another session, we will discuss the logic or beliefs behind these many customs and practices. The next session will feature some very common New Year’s greetings.