Chinese New Year

From New World Encyclopedia
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year
Fireworks are a classic element of Chinese New Year celebrations
Also called Lunar New Year, Spring Festival
Observed by Ethnic Chinese and non-Chinese people worldwide
Type Cultural
(Chinese folk religion, Buddhist, Confucian, Daoist)
Date First day of the first month of the Chinese calendar (between 21 January and 20 February)
Celebrations Lion dances, Mongolian New Year dragon dances, fireworks, family gathering, family meal, visiting friends and relatives, giving red envelopes, decorating with chunlian couplets
Related to Lantern Festival, which concludes the celebration of the Chinese New Year.
Mongol New Year (Tsagaan Sar), Tibetan New Year (Losar), Japanese New Year (Shōgatsu), Korean New Year (Seollal), Vietnamese New Year (Tết)
Zhongwen.png This article contains Chinese text.
Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.

Chinese New Year (simplified Chinese: 农历新年, 春节; traditional Chinese: 農曆新年, 春節) (or generally referred to as Lunar New Year globally) is the Chinese festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. It is also referred to as the Spring Festival (simplified Chinese: 春节; traditional Chinese: 春節) and is one of several Lunar New Years in Asia. Observances traditionally take place from the evening preceding the first day of the year to the Lantern Festival, held on the 15th day of the year. The first day of Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that appears between January 21 and February 20.

Chinese New Year is the most important celebration of the year. On the days immediately preceding the New Year celebration, Chinese families give their homes a thorough cleaning to remove bad fortune from the previous year and to prepare themselves and their homes to receive good luck. Celebrating Chinese New Year’s Eve has always been a family matter in China. It is the reunion day for every Chinese family, with a special reunion dinner shared. Traditional customs on the other days include welcoming the deities, visiting family members, giving red envelopes containing gifts of money to the younger generation, setting off fireworks, and enjoying dragon and lion dances and other festivities.


Hand-written Chinese New Year's poetry pasted on the sides of doors leading to people's homes, Lijiang, Yunnan

According to tales and legends, the beginning of the Chinese New Year started with a mythical beast called the Nian during the annual Spring Festival. The Nian would eat villagers, especially children in the middle of the night. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year to placate the Nian. They learned that the Nian was afraid of three things: the color red, fire, and noise. So the tradition grew that when New Year was approaching, the villagers would wear red clothes and hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on their windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk. After that, Nian retreated to a nearby mountain. The name of the mountain has long been lost over the years.[1]


Main article: Chinese calendar
Chinese New Year eve in Meizhou on 8 February 2005.
Chinese New Year in Singapore Chinatown.
Southeast Asia's largest temple – Kek Lok Si near George Town in Penang, Malaysia – illuminated in preparation for the Lunar New Year.
Chinese New Year in Kobe, Japan

The lunisolar Chinese calendar determines the date of Lunar New Year. The calendar is also used in countries that have been influenced by, or have relations with, China – such as Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, though occasionally the date celebrated may differ by one day or even one moon cycle due to using a meridian based on a different capital city in a different time zone or different placements of intercalary months.[2]

Each year in the Chinese calendar has a presiding animal zodiac: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The Chinese calendar is also divided into lunar cycles of 60 years. Alongside the 12-year cycle of the animal zodiac there is a 10-year cycle of heavenly stems. Each of the ten heavenly stems is associated with one of the five elements of Chinese astrology, namely: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. The elements are rotated every two years while a yin and yang association alternates every year. The elements are thus distinguished: Yang Wood, Yin Wood, Yang Fire, Yin Fire, and so forth. These produce a combined cycle that repeats every 60 years. For example, the year of the Yang Fire Rat occurred in 1936 and in 1996, 60 years apart.

The Chinese calendar defines the lunar month with winter solstice as the 11th month, which means that Chinese New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice (rarely the third if an intercalary month intervenes). More than 96 percent of the time, the Chinese New Year's Day is the closest new moon to lichun (立春 start of spring) on February 4 or 5, and the first new moon after Dahan (大寒 major cold). In the Gregorian calendar, the Lunar New Year begins at the new moon that falls between January 21 and February 20.


While Spring Festival has since become the official name of Chinese New Year, the Chinese outside mainland China still prefer to call it Lunar New Year. “Chinese New Year” is a popular and convenient translation for people of non-Chinese cultural backgrounds.

Chinese New Year is also observed as a public holiday in some countries and territories where there is a sizable Chinese and Korean population. Depending on the country, the holiday may be termed differently: "Chinese New Year," "Lunar New Year", "New Year Festival," and "Spring Festival."


Chinese New Year is the most important celebration of the year. The festivities last 16 days, starting with New Year's Eve, on the day before the new moon on the first day of the first lunar month, and ending on the full moon 15 days later.

Most Chinese people stop celebrating in their homes on the 7th day of New Year, because the national holiday usually ends around then. Celebrations in public areas however continue, culminating in the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the New Year.

Preceding days

On the days immediately before the New Year celebration, Chinese families give their homes a thorough cleaning. It is believed the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the preceding year and makes their homes ready for good luck. Brooms and dust pans are put away on the first day so that the newly arrived good luck cannot be swept away. Some people give their homes, doors, and window-frames a new coat of red paint.[3] Homes are often decorated with paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases and couplets. Purchasing new clothing and shoes also symbolize a new start. Any hair cuts need to be completed before the New Year, as cutting hair on New Year is considered bad luck due to the homonymic nature of the word "hair" (fa) and the word for "prosperity." Businesses are expected to pay off all the debts outstanding for the year before the new year eve, extending to debts of gratitude. Thus it is a common practice to send gifts and rice to close business associates, and extended family members.

Incense is burned at the graves of ancestors as part of the offering and prayer rituals.

In many households where Buddhism or Taoism is prevalent, home altars and statues are cleaned thoroughly, and decorations used to adorn altars over the past year are taken down and burned a week before the new year starts, to be replaced with new decorations. Taoists (and Buddhists to a lesser extent) will also "send gods back to heaven" (送神 sòngshén). They may burn a paper effigy of Zao Jun the Kitchen God, the recorder of family functions, so that the Kitchen God can report to the Jade Emperor of the family household's transgressions and good deeds. Families may offer sweet foods (such as candy) in order to "bribe" the deities into reporting good things about the family.

Prior to the Reunion Dinner on New Year's Eve, a prayer of thanksgiving is held to mark the safe passage of the previous year. Confucianists take the opportunity to remember their ancestors, and those who had lived before them are revered.

New Year's Eve

Chinese New Year's Eve or Lunar New Year's Eve is the day before the Lunar New Year. Celebrating Chinese New Year’s Eve has always been a family matter in China. It is the reunion day for every Chinese family, with the annual reunion dinner. Dishes consisting of special meats are served at the tables, as a main course for the dinner and offering for the New Year.

Other traditions vary by region, as New Year's Eve has been celebrated practices over thousands of years with people in different regions developing different customs.

In northern China, it is customary to make jiaozi, or dumplings, after dinner to eat around midnight. Dumplings symbolize wealth because their shape resembles a Chinese sycee, a type of gold and silver ingot currency used in Imperial China. In contrast, in the South, it is customary to make a glutinous New Year cake (niangao) and send pieces of it as gifts to relatives and friends in the coming days. Niángāo [Pinyin] literally means "new year cake" with a homophonous meaning of "increasingly prosperous year in year out."[3]

After dinner, some families go to local temples hours before the New Year begins to pray for a prosperous new year by lighting the first incense of the year. However in modern practice, many households hold parties and even hold a countdown to the New Year. Traditionally, firecrackers were lit to scare away evil spirits with the household doors sealed, not to be reopened until the new morning in a ritual called "opening the door of fortune."[3]

Beginning in 1982, the CCTV New Year's Gala is broadcast in China four hours before the start of the New Year and lasts until the succeeding early morning. Watching it has gradually become a tradition in China. A tradition of going to bed late on New Year's Eve, or even keeping awake the whole night and morning, known as shousui (守岁), is still practiced as it is thought to add to one's parents' longevity.

First day

Welcoming the Gods at the Chinese New Year, (1900s)

The first day is for the welcoming of the deities of the heavens and earth, officially beginning at midnight. It is a traditional practice to light fireworks, burn bamboo sticks and firecrackers, and to make as much noise as possible to chase off the evil spirits. Many Buddhists abstain from meat consumption on the first day because it is believed to ensure longevity for them. Some consider lighting fires and using knives to be bad luck on New Year's Day, so all food to be consumed is cooked the days before. On this day, it is considered bad luck to use the broom, as good fortune is not to be symbolically "swept away."

Most importantly, the first day of Chinese New Year is a time to honor one's elders and families, visiting the oldest and most senior members of their extended families, usually their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

Some families may invite a lion dance troupe as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Chinese New Year as well as to evict bad spirits from the premises. Members of the family who are married also give red envelopes containing cash, a form of blessings and to suppress the aging and challenges associated with the coming year, to junior members of the family, mostly children and teenagers. Business managers also give bonuses through red packets to employees for good luck, smooth-sailing, good health, and wealth.

Because firecrackers and fireworks are banned for safety reasons in many places, local governments may organize large fireworks shows to kick off the New Year festivities.

Second day

The second day of the Chinese New Year, known as "beginning of the year" (simplified Chinese: 开年; traditional Chinese: 開年; pinyin: kāinián),[3] was traditionally when married daughters visited their birth parents, relatives, and close friends. Married daughters had few opportunities to visit their birth families apart from special holidays. Usually they bring gifts and red envelopes for the children in their family’s home.

During the days of imperial China, "beggars and other unemployed people circulate[d] from family to family, carrying a picture [of the God of Wealth] shouting, "Cai Shen dao!" [The God of Wealth has come!]."[4] Householders would respond with "lucky money" to reward the messengers. Business people of the Cantonese dialect group hold a 'Hoi Nin' prayer to start their business on the second day of the New Year so they will be blessed with good luck and prosperity in their business for the year.

Third day

The third day is known as "red mouth" (赤口 Chìkǒu), an ominous day. It is considered an unlucky day to have guests or go visiting. Rural villagers continue the tradition of burning paper offerings over trash fires. Generally, people spend the day enjoying their family at home.

Fourth day

The fourth day, on the other hand, is considered an auspicious day. It is a day to welcome the Kitchen God, the God of Fortune, and other gods as they return from heaven to earth. Families burn incense and light candles to welcome back the gods.

Fifth day

The fifth day is the God of Wealth's birthday. Some people will stay at home on the fifth day, in case the God of Wealth comes calling.

In northern China, people eat jiaozi, or dumplings, on the morning of Po Wu (破五 pòwǔ). This day marks the point when many New Year’s taboos can be broken, such as sweeping the floor.

It is also common in China that on the fifth day people will shoot off firecrackers to attract the attention of Guan Yu, a famous Chinese general who is worshiped as a Taoist deity, thus ensuring his favor and good fortune for the new year.[5]

Sixth day

On the sixth day people drive away the Ghost of Poverty by throwing out the garbage stored up during the festival. They also throw out old clothes. The ways may vary but the meaning is to drive away the Ghost of Poverty, which reflects the general desire of the Chinese people to send away the previous poverty and hardship and to usher in the good life of the New Year.

Seventh day

The seventh day, traditionally known as Renri (人日 "the Day of the Humans"), is the day when everyone grows one year older. According to Chinese customs, Renri was the day human beings were created. In Chinese mythology, Nüwa was the goddess who created the world. She created the animals on different days, and human beings on the seventh day after the creation of the world.

In some overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Singapore, it is also the day when tossed raw fish salad, yusheng, is eaten for continued wealth and prosperity.

Chinese New Year's celebrations, on the eighth day, in the Metro Vancouver suburb of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.

Eighth day

The eighth day is used to celebrate the birthday of millet, an important crop in ancient China. Nowadays the celebration includes rice, the most essential Chinese staple food in more recent times. According to folk proverbs, if the weather on this day is bright and clear, then the harvest this year will be good.

Another family dinner is held to celebrate the eve of the birth of the Jade Emperor, the ruler of heaven. People normally return to work by the eighth day, and business owners will host a meal with their employees, thanking them for the work they have done for the whole year.

Ninth day

The birthday of the Jade Emperor, the ruler of Heaven (Tian) and the supreme deity of Taoism, is celebrated on the ninth day.

On this day, Daoist temples hold a Jade Emperor ritual (拜天公 bài tiān gōng, literally "heaven worship") at which priests and laymen offer prayers, prostrate themselves, burn incense, and make food offerings.

Tenth to Fourteenth days

On these days there is more feasting with friends and family. After eating so much rich food, vegetarian food like rice and mustard greens are eaten to cleanse the digestive systems.

On the fourteenth day, preparations are made for the Lantern Festival that is held on the last day of the festivities. Families prepare lanterns and make tang yuan, a sweet glutinous rice ball brewed in a soup, while dragon and lion dance teams practice for the upcoming festivities.

Fifteenth day

Lantern Festival

The fifteenth day of the new year is celebrated as "Yuanxiao Festival" (simplified Chinese: 元宵节; traditional Chinese: 元宵節; pinyin: Yuán xiāo jié), also known as "Shangyuan Festival" (simplified Chinese: 上元节; traditional Chinese: 上元節; pinyin: Shàng yuán jié). This day is celebrated as the Lantern Festival (also known as Chap Goh Meh), with families walking the street carrying lighted lanterns. Lion and dragon dance troupes perform in the streets, and children don masks for the event. Candles are lit outside houses as a way to guide wayward spirits home.

Tangyuan sweet rice balls are eaten on this day. Resembling the full moon, tangyuan are the traditional food of the Lantern Festival and symbolize family reunion.

In China, Malaysia, and Singapore, this day is celebrated by individuals seeking a romantic partner, akin to Valentine's Day. Single women used to go out during Chap Goh Meh to throw mandarin oranges into the water in hopes of finding their true love. Nowadays, they write their contact number on mandarin oranges and throw them in a river or a lake.[6]

This day marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.

Traditional activities

Chinese New Year is associated with several myths and customs. The festival was traditionally a time to honor deities as well as ancestors. Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the New Year vary widely, although the family reunion dinner on New Year's Eve is widely practiced. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly clean their house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for incoming good luck. Another custom is the decoration of windows and doors with red paper-cuts and couplets. Popular themes among these paper-cuts and couplets include that of good fortune or happiness, wealth, and longevity. Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes. For the northern regions of China, dumplings are featured prominently in meals celebrating the festival. It often serves as the first meal of the year either at mid-night or as breakfast of the first day.

An inverted character fu is a sign of arriving blessings.


As with all cultures, Chinese New Year traditions incorporate elements that are symbolic of deeper meaning. One common example of Chinese New Year symbolism is the red diamond-shaped fu characters (福 meaning blessings, happiness), which are displayed on the entrances of Chinese homes. This sign is usually seen hanging upside down, since the Chinese word dao ( 倒 dào meaning upside down), is homophonous or nearly homophonous with (到 dào meaning arrive). Therefore, it symbolizes the arrival of luck, happiness, and prosperity.

However, for the Cantonese-speaking people, if the fu sign is hung upside down, the implied dao (upside down) sounds like the Cantonese word for "pour," producing "pour the luck [away]", which would usually symbolize bad luck. Therefore, the fu character is not usually hung upside-down in Cantonese communities.

Red lanterns for the New Year

Red is the predominant color used in New Year celebrations. Red is the emblem of joy, and this color also symbolizes virtue, truth, and sincerity. On the Chinese opera stage, a painted red face usually denotes a sacred or loyal personage and sometimes a great emperor. Candies, cakes, decorations, and many things associated with the New Year and its ceremonies are colored red.

Traditional food

During the festival, people around China will prepare different gourmet for families and guests. Influenced by the flourished cultures, foods from different places look and taste totally different. Among them, the most well-known ones are dumplings from northern China and Tangyuan sweet rice balls from southern China.

Other traditional foods consists of noodles, fruits, dumplings, and spring rolls. Each dish served during Chinese New Year represents something special. The noodles are usually very thin, long wheat noodles. These noodles are longer than normal noodles that are usually fried and served on a plate, or boiled and served in a bowl with its broth. These noodles symbolize the wish for a long life. The fruits that are typically selected would be oranges, tangerines, and pomelos as they are round and "golden" color symbolizing fullness and wealth. Dumplings and spring rolls symbolize wealth, whereas sweet rice balls symbolize family togetherness. Several of the Chinese food names are homophones for words like prosperity, good luck, or even counting money.

Many places in China still follow the tradition of eating only vegetarian food on the first day of the New year, as it is a sign of peace. They believe that eating only vegetarian food the first day will bring joy and peace into their lives for the whole year.


The Chinese New Year is often accompanied by loud, enthusiastic greetings, often referred to as 吉祥話 (jíxiánghuà) in Mandarin or 吉利說話 (Kat Lei Seut Wa) in Cantonese, loosely translated as auspicious words or phrases. New Year couplets printed in gold letters on bright red paper, referred to as chunlian (春聯) or fai chun (揮春), is another way of expressing auspicious new year wishes. They probably predate the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), but did not become widespread until then.[3] Today, they are ubiquitous with Chinese New Year.

Gong Hei Fat Choi at Lee Theatre Plaza, Hong Kong

Some of the most common greetings include:

  • Xin nian kuai le: simplified Chinese: 新年快乐; traditional Chinese: 新年快樂 A more contemporary greeting reflective of Western influences, it literally translates from the greeting "Happy new year" more common in the west.
  • Gong hey fat choi: simplified Chinese: 恭喜发财; traditional Chinese: 恭喜發財 which loosely translates to "Congratulations and be prosperous." It is spelled variously in English as "Gung hay fat choy," "Gong hey fat choi," or "Kung Hei Fat Choy." Often mistakenly assumed to be synonymous with "Happy New Year", its usage dates back several centuries. The first two words of this phrase ("congratulations") have had a longer historical significance (legend has it that the congratulatory messages were traded for surviving the ravaging beast of Nian, in practical terms it may also have meant surviving the harsh winter conditions), while the last two words were added more recently.

Numerous other greetings exist, some of which may be exclaimed out loud to no one in particular in specific situations. For example, as breaking objects during the new year is considered inauspicious, one may then say 歲歲平安 (Suìsuì-píng'ān) immediately, which means "everlasting peace year after year". Suì (歲), meaning "age" is homophonous with 碎 (suì) (meaning "shatter"), in the demonstration of the Chinese love for wordplay in auspicious phrases. Similarly, 年年有餘 (niánnián yǒu yú), a wish for surpluses and bountiful harvests every year, plays on the word that can also refer to 魚 (yú meaning fish), making it a catch phrase for fish-based Chinese new year dishes and for paintings or graphics of fish that are hung on walls or presented as gifts.

These greetings or phrases may also be used just before children receive their red packets, when gifts are exchanged, when visiting temples, or even when tossing the shredded ingredients of yusheng particularly popular in Malaysia and Singapore. Children and their parents can also pray in the temple, in hopes of getting good blessings for the new year to come.

Red envelopes

Red packets for sale in a market in Taipei, Taiwan, before the Year of the Rat

Traditionally, red envelopes or red packets (simplified Chinese: 红包; traditional Chinese: 紅包) are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors or children. During this period, red packets are also known as "yasuiqian" (simplified Chinese: 压岁钱; traditional Chinese: 壓歲錢), literally, "the money used to suppress or put down the evil spirit."[7] It is customary for children to wish elders a happy new year and a year of happiness, health, and good fortune before accepting the red envelope.

Red packets almost always contain money, usually varying from a couple of dollars to several hundred. Per custom, the amount of money in the red packets should be of even numbers, as odd numbers are associated with cash given during funerals (帛金: báijīn). The number 8 is considered lucky (for its homophone for "wealth"), and $8 is commonly found in the red envelopes in the US. The number six (六, liù) is also very lucky as it sounds like "smooth" (流, liú), in the sense of having a smooth year. The number four (四) is the worst because its homophone is "death" (死). It is customary for the bills to be brand new printed money. Everything regarding the New Year has to be new in order to have good luck and fortune.

Gift exchange

Chinese New Year candy box

In addition to red envelopes, which are usually given from older people to younger people, small gifts (usually food or sweets) are also exchanged between friends or relatives (of different households) during Chinese New Year. Gifts are usually brought when visiting friends or relatives at their homes. Common gifts include fruits (typically oranges, but never pears which is a homonym for "separate"), cakes, biscuits, chocolates, and candies.


Markets or village fairs are set up as the New Year is approaching. These usually open-air markets feature new year related products such as flowers, toys, clothing, and even fireworks and firecrackers. It is convenient for people to buy gifts for their new year visits as well as their home decorations. In some places, the practice of shopping for the perfect plum tree is not dissimilar to the Western tradition of buying a Christmas tree.


Bamboo stems filled with gunpowder burnt to create small explosions were used in ancient China to drive away evil spirits. In modern times, this method has eventually evolved into the use of firecrackers during the festive season. Firecrackers are usually strung on a long fused string. Each firecracker is rolled up in red papers, as red is auspicious, with gunpowder in its core. Once ignited, the firecracker lets out a loud popping noise and, as they are usually strung together by the hundreds, the firecrackers are known for their deafening explosions that are thought to scare away evil spirits. The burning of firecrackers also signifies a joyful time of year and has become an integral aspect of Chinese New Year celebrations.[8]


Dragon and lion dances are common during Chinese New Year. It is believed that the loud beats of the drum and the deafening sounds of the cymbals together with the face of the Dragon or Lion dancing aggressively can evict bad or evil spirits.

Family portrait

In some places, the taking of a family portrait is an important ceremony after the relatives are gathered. The photo is taken at the hall of the house or taken in front of the house. The most senior male head of the family sits in the center.

Spring travel

Traditionally, families gather together during the Chinese New Year. In modern China, migrant workers in China travel home to have reunion dinners with their families on Chinese New Year's Eve. Owing to a large number of interprovincial travelers, special arrangements are made by railways, buses, and airlines starting from 15 days before the New Year's Day. This 40-day period, called chunyun, is known as the world's largest annual migration.[9]

In Taiwan, spring travel is also a major event. The majority of transportation in western Taiwan is in a north-south direction: long distance travel between urbanized north and hometowns in the rural south. Transportation in eastern Taiwan and that between Taiwan and its islands is less convenient. Cross-strait flights between Taiwan and mainland China began in 2009 allowing carriers from both jurisdictions to travel directly to the other side without having to pass through a third-party country, but there is a high demand for travel for the New Year necessitating additional charter flights.[10]

Festivities outside Greater China

As a major holiday in China, the Chinese New Year celebrations have strongly influenced lunar new year celebrations of China's neighboring cultures, including the Korean New Year (seol), the Tết of Vietnam, and the Losar of Tibet.[11] It is also celebrated worldwide in regions and countries with significant Overseas Chinese populations, including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Mauritius, as well as many in North America and Europe.

Southeast Asia

Gaya Street in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia filled with Chinese lanterns during the New Year celebration.

In some countries of Southeast Asia, Chinese New Year is a national public holiday and considered to be one of the most important holidays of the year. Chinese New Year's Eve is typically a half-day holiday for Malaysia and Singapore. The biggest celebrations take place in Malaysia (notably in Kuala Lumpur, George Town and Klang) and Singapore.[12]

In the Philippines, Chinese New Year is considered to be the most important festival for Filipino-Chinese. Recently its celebration has also extended to the non-Chinese majority Filipinos, being included among the public holidays in the Philippines.

Greeting banners of various companies in the Chinese New Year 2016, in Bangkok's Chinatown

Thailand, with a large population of Chinese descent, holds Chinese New Year festivities throughout the country. The holiday is celebrated for three days, starting on the day before the Chinese New Year's Eve. The first day is the Wan chai (Thai: วันจ่าย; pay day), meaning the day that people go out to shop for offerings; second day is the Wan wai (Thai: วันไหว้; worship day), is a day of worshiping the gods and ancestral spirits; the third day is a Wan tieow (Thai: วันเที่ยว; holiday), a holiday where everyone will leave the house to travel and visit relatives. In the capital, Bangkok in Chinatown, Yaowarat Road, traditionally a great celebration is held. A member of the royal family often presides over the ceremony.[13]

In Indonesia, the Chinese New Year is officially named as Hari Tahun Baru Imlek, but its celebration as a holiday has a history of controversy. It was officially declared as a one-day public religious holiday, but specifically designated only for Chinese people and is not intended to be celebrated by Indonesian indigenous people.[14] Cities with large Chinese populations, such as Jakarta, Medan, Pekanbaru, Ketapang and Pontianak, hold New Year's celebrations every years with parades and fireworks. Shopping malls are decorated with lanterns, Chinese words, and lions or dragons in red and gold. Lion dances are a common sight around Chinese houses and temples. Temples are open 24 hours in the first day, and distribute red envelopes and sometimes food to the poor.

Australia and New Zealand

Melbourne: Chinese New Year in Chinatown

With one of the largest Chinese populations outside of Asia, Sydney, Australia also claims to have the largest Lunar New Year Celebrations outside of Asia with over 600,000 people attending the celebrations in Chinatown annually. The events span over three weeks, including the launch celebration, outdoor markets, evening street food stalls, Chinese top opera performances, dragon boat races, a film festival, and multiple parades that incorporate Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese performers.[15] Apart from Sydney, other state capital cities in Australia also celebrate Chinese New Year due to large number of Chinese residents: Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne Box Hill, and Perth.

In New Zealand, the city of Wellington hosts a two-day weekend festival for the Chinese New Year,[16] Dunedin holds one-day festival, with a dragon parade from the Octagon and fireworks at the Dunedin Chinese Garden.[17]

North America

Many cities in North America sponsor official parades for Chinese New Year, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Chicago,</ref> Toronto, and Vancouver.

Multiple groups in New York City cooperate to sponsor a week-long Lunar New Year celebration. The festivities include a cultural festival, parade, music concert, fireworks on the Hudson River near the Chinese Consulate, and special exhibits.[18] In June 2015, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared that the Lunar New Year would be made a public school holiday.[19]

The San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival and Parade is the oldest and largest Asian cultural event in North America. The festival traces its lineage back to early parades organized by the Chinese who had come to work in the gold mines, during the California Gold Rush, and on the railroad. In the 1860s the Chinese in San Francisco chose to showcase their culture by using a favorite American tradition, the parade, and marched down what today are Grant Avenue and Kearny Street carrying colorful flags, banners, lanterns, drums, and firecrackers to drive away evil spirits. Today, the parade and festivities attract hundreds of thousands of people and more who watch on television.[20]


London: Chinatown with Chinese New Year decoration

In Europe, many large cities hold celebrations. For example, in London the celebrations take place throughout Chinatown, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square and other locations, and include parades, cultural feasts, fireworks, concerts, and performances.[21]

In Paris, the celebrations have been held since the 1980s in several districts, with a variety of festivities including parades and performances, and celebratory food.[22]

India and Pakistan

Many celebrate the festival in Chinatown, Kolkata, India, which has a significant Chinese community. Lion and dragon dances are popular features of the celebration.

In Pakistan, the Chinese New Year is also celebrated among the sizable Chinese expatriate community. During the festival, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad arranges various cultural events in which Pakistani arts and cultural organizations and members of the civil society also participate.


  1. April Holloway, The Origin of Lunar New Year and the legend of Nian Ancient Origins, January 31, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  2. Lisa Chiu, The History of Chinese New Year ThoughtCo, August 21, 2019. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Patricia BjaalandWelch, Chinese New Year (Oxford University Press, 1997, ISBN 978-0195877304).
  4. Shiu L. Kong, Chinese Culture and Lore (Kensington Educational, 1989, ISBN 978-0969200543).
  5. Greg Rogers, The Top Traditions of Chinese New Year TripSavvy, June 26, 2019. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  6. Liew Jia Xian, Chap Goh Meh – a sweet tradition The Star, February 20, 2019. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  7. Alice K. Flanagan, Chinese New Year (Compass Point Books, 2003, ISBN 978-0756509507).
  8. Suchitthra Vasu, Firecrackers Singapore Infopedia. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
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ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Bodde, Derk. Festivals in Classical China: New Year and Other Annual Observances During the Han Dynasty, 206 B.C.E.- A.D. 220. Princeton University Press, 1975. ISBN 978-0691030982
  • Flanagan, Alice K. Chinese New Year. Compass Point Books, 2003. ISBN 978-0756509507
  • Kong, Shiu L. Chinese Culture and Lore. Kensington Educational, 1989. ISBN 978-0969200543
  • Roy, Christian. Traditional Festivals: A Multicultural Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2004. ISBN 978-1576070895
  • Welch, Patricia Bjaaland. Chinese New Year. Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0195877304

External links

All links retrieved December 10, 2023.


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