The 852 Guide to Chinese New Year

Do you hear the dong dong chiang of the beating drums and clanging symbols? The biggest festivity and celebration in Hong Kong - Chinese New Year, is right around the corner, and it’s the roaring year of the tiger! Read on to find out more about all things Chinese New Year! 

What is Chinese New Year? 

A festival marking spring, cleansing, and the start to the new year; Chinese New Year is our version of an old school fable that was passed down many generations, to give us the celebrations we have today. 

In ancient times, there was a monster that hid in darkness, named Nian, that came out to eat livestock and people every new year. So before New Year’s Eve, the villagers would escape to the mountains to avoid Nian. But during one New Year’s Eve evening, a wise old man decided to confront Nian, because he learnt that the monster was afraid of loud noises, the colour red, and the smell of candles. And he was correct. The crackling of firecrackers, and brightness of the red lanterns and papers frightened Nian, and he fled into the night. 

To make sure Nian never returned, the villagers began the tradition of lighting candles and firecrackers, and putting up big red lanterns and decorations every year to scare away Nian. And now, we keep the tradition alive as a sign of good fortune, and clearing  out the old to make way for the new (year)! 

That being said, the Chinese Lunar calendar doesn’t follow our mainstream calendar… so the new year doesn’t start until 21-51 days after January 1st (between January 21 and February 20, if you’re really counting).

What do you do during Chinese New Year? 

If you needed an excuse to see your family, this would be it. The reunion dinner welcomes extended family and friends to sit for a feast. 

EAT. What better way to celebrate festivities, than with food?

Running with the theme of good fortune, luck and wealth - the foods eaten during Chinese New Year could not be any closer to symbolise that! Before the feast, you will be greeted with an assortment of candy treats to symbolise a sweet and rich life. Then to the feast. Some popular dishes on the table include fish (symbolising longevity. And here’s to confuse the gweilos: “yu”, which means fish, also sounds like the Chinese word for abundance), dumplings (symbolising wealth), tangerines (good fortune and wealth - because it’s plump and gold 🤷🏽‍♀️), longevity noodles (it’s in the name), turnip cake (fun fact: “radish” in Hokkien is also a homonym for luck or fortune), and last but not least… nian gao (glutinous rice cake; considered to bring good luck and increase prosperity). 

Receive or give (if you’re unluckily married or an older family member) red packets! The infamous red lai see packet - to be received with BOTH hands, and only rewarded if you recite as many Chinese New Year wishes to the red packet holder. But in all seriousness, did you know that the significance of the red packet is actually the red packet itself… NOT the money! To wrap the money in the red packet symbolises sealing happiness and blessings to the recipient of the red packet. 

Other things to do include cleaning the house (of any bad juju), visiting family members, decorating the house in all things red, lighting up firecrackers, and watching the fireworks.

CELEBRATE! Expect it to be a loud and vibrant Chinese New Year!

By: Vivian Fong & Constance Lowcock

Being born and raised in Hong Kong, Constance wishes to rediscover her home in a different light; by being immersed in the local happenings, exploring and experiencing new things and places, and expressing them through creative channels such as in her writing and art.

Vivian is currently a university student in her last year studying holistic health and wellness. Besides her passions in yoga, nutrition and all things health and wellness related, she loves social media, blogging and writing because of the creativity, inspiration and connection it brings.