Chinese New Year is the largest, most important Chinese holiday. It ushers in a fresh beginning and lasts for 15 days. Chinese New Year is based on the Chinese calendar, which consists of both Gregorian and lunar-solar calendar systems, so it starts on a different day each year depending on the path of the new moon. In 2013, the Year of the Snake begins on February 10.
Anyone, whether Chinese or not, can observe Chinese New Year with these six ways to celebrate the holiday.
1. Eat at a Chinese restaurant
On the first few days of Chinese New Year, many Chinese restaurants will offer a special banquet menu of traditional holiday foods. Each dish symbolizes something desired, such as “long life” noodles (don’t break them) and whole fish (keep the head and fin to ensure a good beginning and end to the year). If there are no local restaurants serving special New Year’s meals, create your own celebration by ordering symbolic foods off the menu.
2. Buy new clothes
Chinese New Year provides the fashion-savvy celebrator a good reason to buy new outfits. Since the New Year represents a fresh resolve in life, the Chinese make sure to start the year right by wearing new clothes and attire. Just don’t wear black — similar to Western cultures, this color represents death.
3. Attend a festival
Those living near cities with higher populations may have access to Chinese New Year parades and other related events. Festivals typically include a lion dance, firecrackers, and good food, just to name a few of the activities. Those who don’t want to leave home or don’t have festivals nearby can watch Chinese New Year videos to see how the holiday is celebrated.
4. Buy or make dumplings
Chinese dumplings, or jiaozi, is a favorite Chinese New Year food. Jiaozi in Chinese sounds like another phrase that means “bidding farewell to the old and ushering in the new.” The dumpling’s shape is similar to the gold ingot from ancient China so people believe eating them will bring money and good fortune. Making dumplings from scratch can prove time consuming, so purchase frozen ones instead. An increasing number of retailers like Trader Joes and Costco sell frozen dumplings.
5. Clean the house
This is not a trick to get people to clean those dust bunnies. Cleaning the house just before Chinese New Year represents sweeping away bad luck that has built up over the past year. It also clears the way for good luck to enter. Just remember not to clean the house during the 15 days of Chinese New Year or risk sweeping away any good luck that just arrived.
6. Decorate in red
Red symbolizes the color of good luck and wealth in Chinese culture. Hang up red lanterns, banners or other Chinese New Year signs (search the internet for retailers). Many will feature the Chinese character “fu” which means “fortune.” Make sure to also “decorate yourself” by wearing lots of red to ward away bad spirits.
What part of Chinese New Year do you think is the most interesting? How do you plan to celebrate it?