Chinese New Year traditions explained
There is sometimes confusion for non-Chinese people about what and when Chinese New Year is. This Friday 16th February is the first day of China’s lunar calendar, so New Year’s Day. A later blogpost will deal with other important days to look out for in the Chinese New Year calendar. It’s a long one, with up to 15 days of celebration!
Today’s post is all about Chinese New Year traditions. We’re going to look at some of the fantastic stories that explain how many around the globe celebrate Chinese New Year today.
Spring Festival wine
An old Chinese saying goes “without alcohol, there’s no banquet”. Given that many Chinese New Year traditions centre around banquets with family, the wine is going to follow.
Legend has it that one Chinese alcohol, called Tú sū wine, has a very special power. It was widely prescribed by doctors in ancient China, particularly by Dr. Sun Simiao in the 7th century. On New Year’s Eve, Dr. Sun gave medicine and Tú sū wine out to his neighbours, telling them to drink up to fight the plague!
Here at Dragons we can’t verify that Tú sū wine will help to protect or cure you from the plague, but why not have a glass just in case! Follow Dr. Sun’s Chinese New Year traditions this New Year’s Eve, Thursday 15th February, and let us know how you get on.
The Chinese New Year traditions of families making and eating dumplings together is as traditional as turkey at Christmas. One Chinese saying goes “for the ordinary people of China, there’s nothing more delicious than a dumpling”.
I agree, and that seems like reason enough to eat them at Chinese New Year. However, there are lots of other stories about dumplings’ importance.
One of the most common myths is that a dumpling looks like a bar of gold, so eating them will bring wealth and business opportunity throughout the next year. Makes sense, and definitely sounds like a better start to the year than eating an actual bar of gold.
Other Chinese New Year traditions include putting different ingredients into dumplings at random. Like putting money into a Christmas pudding, the idea is that whichever dumpling you get will affect your luck for the coming year.
Here are some of my favourite dumpling fillings and their meanings. A sugar dumpling means a sweet year, nice and simple. Peanut dumplings mean you’ll live a long time, as the Chinese for “peanut” can translate as “blossoming life”. Date and chestnut dumplings means a couple will have a child early in their marriage, traditionally a lucky idiom used to congratulate a happy couple.
Ask people what they think of when you say “China”, and I’m sure lots will say the colour red. It’s the colour of the Chinese flag, features heavily in Chinese architecture and is banned at funerals for being too happy.
Red also plays a big role in many Chinese New Year traditions. One of the most interesting is the tradition of wearing red underwear.
Contrary to what many non-Chinese people assume, when it is your Chinese animal’s birth year you’re probably going to have an unlucky one. 2018 is the Year of the Dog, so people born in 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, or 1946 beware!
According to legend, the best way of protecting yourself against bad luck for the whole year is to wear red underwear. No, not just on Chinese New Year, but for the whole year!
Don’t worry too much, there are many other traditions about how to avoid bad luck during your animal’s birth year. A much easier (and cleaner!) practice is wearing a protective charm with red string or made from red jade.
Love learning about Chinese Culture? Our Learn China @ Waterloo event on the language and culture of this amazing country still has places. Click here to reserve your space at this free event!