13 Traditional Chinese New Year Activities
Do you know what Chinese people do before and during Chinese New Year? Do you know when the Chinese New Year celebration ends? Let’s learn 13 Traditional Chinese New Year Activities! We also made a traditional Chinese New Year Activities timeline infographic.
Before Chinese New Year
Cleaning / sweeping the house
About one week before Chinese New Year Eve, people start the complete cleaning of their house. They sweep the whole house, windows, doors, and furniture. They usually also throw away something old and stuff that is not needed, which represents sweeping away bad luck and habits and welcoming everything that is new and good. They believe this activity can bring them good luck and fortune.
New Year Shopping
New Year shopping usually begins even earlier than house cleaning. If you visit certain streets that people go to, to do their New Year shopping, it starts getting pretty busy even one month or a couple of weeks before the Chinese New Year.
Check out the video and pictures below! I took the video and pictures in a traditional New Year shopping street. The video and pictures were taken in Sanfeng Center Street, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
There are a tremendous amount and varieties of delicacies and candies you can find:
Different flavors jellos
Dried shredded squid
Vinegar soft drinks
Sweet potato balls
And much more
Chinese New Year Eve
Many activities are held on Chinese New Year Eve. People who are working, usually start their Chinese New Year holidays on Chinese New Year Eve or the day before.
Pasting spring festival couplets
These are made with black or golden ink written on red paper. You paste the couplets by the front door. There are three places you can paste the couplets. Two vertical ones up and down on the right and left sides of the front door. These two will be considered a pair of poetry lines. And one horizontal on the top of the door, that line is usually of four characters.
Paying tribute to ancestors
Some Chinese still believe in worshipping their ancestors. They believe that after the family members die, their spirits are still alive. They have the power to protect the family. Offering fruits, food, and wine to the ancestors can keep their ancestors happy.
Having a family reunion dinner
This is the most important activity for all Chinese. It is equivalent to Thanksgiving dinner in the US. Traditionally, all of the family members will get together in a relative’s house and have dinner together. Since making a Chinese family reunion dinner is a huge stress for those who are cooking (usually grandmothers, mothers, daughters, or daughters-in-law), it is becoming popular to order dishes from restaurants and take-outs.
Another newly-arisen business is of companies that will pre-make some famous Chinese New Year dishes 年菜 nián cài. These are usually half cooked.
Here is an example of a popular grocery chain in Taiwan. As you can see in the pictures below,
you can either choose to order the whole dinner. The whole dinner is usually good for 4-10 people.
Soups are usually also one of the must-have dishes in Chinese New Year dinner.
or you can only order whatever dishes you would like and make the other dishes at home. You usually can start ordering about a month ago before the Chinese New Year. You can choose when you would like to pick them up.
Here we list a few most popular Chinese New Year Dishes
- Fish 鱼 yú – We definitely have at least one fish dish on the table. Fish in Chinese is “鱼 yú,” which has the same pronunciation as “余 yú.” The word “余 yú” means extra. A Chinese idiom “年年有余 nián nián yǒuyú” means you overflow ever year. Chinese people believe overflow means you gain more than you need, which represents fortune and wealth.
2. Dumplings 饺子 jiǎozi – The dumpling is shaped like an old-fashioned gold ingot. The meaning of eating dumplings in the Chinese New Year is the more dumplings you eat, the more money you will get in the coming year.
3. Spring rolls and egg rolls 春卷 chūnjuǎn – The rolls symbolize wealth because their shape is similar to gold bars.
4. Longevity noodles 长寿面 Chángshòu miàn – These kinds of noodles have an extended length compared to regular noodles. These noodles symbolize longevity, so it’s of the utmost importance not to cut them. Chinese people believe that eating longevity noodles can bring them a longer life.
Exchanging red envelopes
The red envelopes are given to younger generations. The grandparents, parents, and older generations will give money to younger ones. The money in the red envelopes are usually new bills and we will avoid the “number 4”, which represents bad luck (death) in Chinese.
If you would like to know more about gift-giving etiquette in Chinese culture, check out this fun infographic.
On Chinese New Year’s Eve, the parents usually allow their children to stay up late until midnight. They usually spend the night watching a New Year Gala on TV or playing board games and cards.
Chinese New Year / The first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year
Setting off Firecrackers
This is the countrywide activity during the Chinese New Year. The original meaning of setting off firecrackers was to scare away evil spirits. The time for setting off firecrackers is different from region to region. The duration of fire firecrackers is varied. It can be between 10 minutes and to up to 2 hours.
Here are the two most popular times to set off firecrackers,
Chinese New Year Midnight
After staying up late, as soon as midnight comes, the firecrackers are set off in some regions. They believe that the monsters or evil spirits will be scared away from the loud noise of the firecrackers. Since midnight is the first moment of the New Year, which also means starting the first moment of a brand-new year, the evil ones will be no longer here.
First thing in the morning on Chinese New Year Day
In some regions, people set off firecrackers first thing in the morning on Chinese New Year Day. As soon as they open the door, they set off firecrackers. People believe that good luck will be with them throughout the entire year.
The 2nd to 4th days of the Chinese Lunar New Year
On the second day of the Chinese New Year, a daughter who is married will go back to visit her parents with her husband and kids. This is what we call “回娘家 huí niángjiā.”
Between the 2nd to 5th days of the Chinese Lunar New Year, people usually visit their relatives. They often not only visit their close relatives but also pay a visit to their more distant relatives if they live close to their hometown.
The 5th to 8th days of the Chinese Lunar New Year
Most of the businesses resume between 5th to 8th day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Post offices, banks, companies, clinics, and other small businesses won’t have regular hours until the 5th or 6th days after the Chinese New Year.
Restaurants, tour areas, and transportation usually offer extended hours. Usually, only emergency rooms will operate during the Chinese New Year.
The Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the 1st month in the lunar calendar. It also marks the official last day of the celebration of the Chinese New Year.
The lantern festival is getting popular nowadays. By saying it is getting popular, it does not mean people did not celebrate the lantern festival before. More and more cities get enough funding to host a good-size festival.
Eating sweet sticky/glutinous rice balls
There are a few different flavors of sticky rice balls that you can easily find in the grocery stores.
White and pink sticky rice balls
These sticky rice balls are small. They do not have a filling.
Black sesame and peanut filled sticky rice balls are pretty popular, too.
Black sesame sticky rice balls
Peanut filled sticky rice balls
13 Traditional Chinese New Year Activities Infographic
Have you experienced Chinese New Year in China or Taiwan in person? What activities did you do during the Chinese New Year? Share them with us in the comments below!