Culture File - Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the longest and most important holiday in the Chinese calendar marking the end of the winter season. It lasts 15 days and ends with the Lantern Festival. During this time, houses are cleaned and windows and doors are decorated with paper-cuts and greetings. People buy presents, decorations, food, and clothing.

On New Year’s Eve, a reunion dinner is held in or near the home of the eldest family member. The feast includes meat dishes (pork, duck, chicken), fish, a hot pot and sweet delicacies followed by firecrackers - to drive away evil spirits. Ingredients that have similar sounding names with ‘good luck’ or ‘prosperity’ are used. The world’s largest annual migration takes place as migrant workers travel home.

Envelopes are given to family members during dinner which often contain money whilst gifts (fruit, sweets, other small gifts) are taken when visiting friends or relatives at their homes. Red (hóng in Mandarin) also means ‘prosperous’ and is the main colour used in New Year celebrations as it symbolizes virtue and truth.

New red clothing symbolizing a new beginning and having plenty to wear in the New Year is typically worn as it was once believed that it could scare away evil spirits and bad fortune.

Dragon and lion dances are also common as it is believed that the loud sound of the musical instruments together with the animal’s face can scare away evil spirits.
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