Chinese New Year Customs and Traditions

For a list of events celebrating 2012 Year of the Dragon, visit this page.

Here are some traditions and customs that you might be interested to know (or do it with your entire family with fun):


The celebration actually starts on New Year’s Eve with the reunion dinner. By New Year’s Eve, you should have done the following:

Clean the entire home to get rid of all the things that are associated with the old year.

Put away all brooms and brushes.

Pay all your debts.

Resolve differences with family members, friends, neighbors and business associates.

Buy the following:

– red money envelopes

– oranges and/or tangerines

– circular candy tray

– flowers (especially plum blossom, peach blossom, water lily)

– a new set of clothes and shoes for children, preferably something red or orange.

Get new dollar bills from the bank. Insert the new dollar bills into the red envelopes. Now the red envelope is called a lee see or lucky money envelope.

(note: Very few modern families follow all the “cleaning” traditions.)


Get together with close family members (not including married daughters and their families) for the “reunion” dinner.

Pay respect to ancestors and household gods. Acknowledge the presence of ancestors because they are responsible for the fortunes of future generations.

Open every door and window in your home at midnight to let go of the old year.

Put a fresh and big round Apple or Orange next to your children’s pillows, so they would sleep in peace and wakes up with the fresh aroma of the fruits.



Decorate your home with symbols of good fortune. Here are some suggestions:

– Colors: Bright red (happiness); gold/orange (wealth & happiness).

– Fruits: Oranges and tangerines (good health & long life); tangerines with leaves intact (long lasting relationships; fruitful and multiply as in having children); persimmons (happiness and wealth).

– Circular candy tray (candy for sweet and circular for togetherness).

– Flowers: If flowers bloom on New Year’s Day, it will be a prosperous year.

– Red banners or couplets with New Year wishes and symbols of good fortune in gold.

Here are some suggestions for food:

– Jai – a combination of food that represents good fortune. Jai comprises of ginkgo nut, black moss, dried bean curd, bamboo shoots, vermicelli and scallion.

– Fish and chicken represent prosperity. Always present the fish and chicken as a whole. Do not cut them in pieces. The head, tail and feet (for chicken) must be presented to symbolize completeness.

– Noodles represent longevity. Again, they should not be cut.

– Desserts include oranges, Chinese New Year cake (ni gao) and prosperous cakes (they look like golden nuggets).

Wear all new clothing (from socks to shirts) to welcome the new year with a clean start.


DO’s & DON’Ts on NEW YEAR’s DAY:

– Greet others with “Gung Hey Fat Choy” which means “Wishing You Prosperity and Wealth”.

– Give two lee see’s to each child. Because happiness comes in two’s, do not just give one. This is your way of passing good luck to the next generation. Business owners also givelee see’s to employees and associates.

– Wear brand new clothes – preferably in red. Children should wear new clothes and new shoes.

– Don’t wash your hair.

– Don’t sweep the floor.

– Don’t greet people who are in mourning.

– Don’t drop your chopsticks.

– Don’t say the number ‘four’ (Chinese homonym for death) or mention death.

– Don’t borrow or lend money.

As you prepare for this important holiday, think of the changes you want to make in your life … perhaps spend more time with your family, reduce your credit card debts or pursue a new interest. Gung Hey Fat Choy … and Happy New Year!

Although the video below is dated, but the celebrations is still carries yearly:

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