How Chinese people celebrate Chinese New Year in China?

You may have heard that the Chinese New Year is the most important festival for all the Chinese people around the world and you might have been to the Chinatown once before to experience the lively dragon dances or fire crackers there. But Chinese people actually do a lot more things than those shown on TV during the New Year, and as the time changes, it gradually takes on a new form to celebrate Chinese New Year these years. So today let's take a closer look at how would a Chinese local spend Chinese New Year nowadays in China from a Chinese person's eyes.

Chinese New Year Preparation

1. House cleaning & Decoration

The Chinese New Year is the time to say good bye to the old things, so the first thing to get yourself ready for the festival is to thoroughly clean your house which you probably didn't have time to do during the previous year, such as to sweep the dust, wash the windows and throw away the useless.After the house cleaning, it's time to decorate your house in New Year's fashion. The most common New Year's decoration includes the Spring Couplets which is called 春联chūn lián (a pair of red long papers with good luck wishes written in black ink) on the two side of the door frame, and the other one is the 福character(fú, meaning blessing, both containing the typical good wishes for the coming year.

2. Shopping

The Chinese New Year is a shopping boom when you can see that almost all the shopping malls are having big sales and launch the New Year collection to attract the consumers. The Chinese people spend a lot of money mainly to buy two things. One is the New Year clothes for themselves or the family members. The other is the food stored for the New Year which is called 年货nián huò including the meat, vegetables, fruits, snacks, candies to consume during the festival when most shops are closed.

除夕chú xī— New Year's Eve

1. 吃年夜饭chīniányèfàn — Enjoy the Family reunion dinner

The New Year's Eve is called 除夕chú xī.On chú xī, the Chinese people will get together with their family members to enjoy a feast, which is called 年夜饭nián yè fàn. In our childhood, the Eve's dinner is the most expected dinner of the year since our parents or grandparents will prepare abundant delicious food for one meal, which you can't eat or only can eat one or two kinds usually. The traditional food for the Chinese dinner includes the chicken, beef, pork, seafood etc. and this meal is usually home-cooked.However, with the improvement of Chinese living standards, the food of the New Year's Eve now can frequently be found on the table every day, and the food itself is not so expected as before, even a little bit heavy or greasy for many people. And more and more people choose to have the reunion dinner at a restaurant which saves time and seems much easier. It's a pity that the Family reunion dinner becomes more of a casual gathering rather than getting everyone involved in enjoying the process of preparation.

2. 看春节晚会kàn chūn jié wǎn huì — Watch the Spring Festival Gala

The Spring Festival Gala is the TV show produced by the state TV channel which has been broadcast since 1983. It is the most viewed TV show with around 800 million Chinese people watching, programs including singing, dancing, acting short sketches, etc. It begins at 8 o'clock and ends at midnight. All the family members will watch the show while eating the dinner. In Chinese' people's hearts, it is the “must-watch” TV show on every New Year's Eve.

3. 放鞭炮fàng biān pào— Setting off firecrackers

When I was a kid, the most interesting thing to do during Chinese New Year is to set off firecrackers. The possession of various kinds of firecrackers even became a bragging right among the other kids. At midnight, all the family set off the firecrackers almost at the same time to welcome Chinese New Year. But nowadays, because of the danger and noise caused, many major cities have banned setting off firecrackers, and you can only find people setting off firecrackers in rural district.

4. Sending greetings through WeChat

As the instant messaging becomes more and more popular, people prefer to send greeting messages through WeChat rather than calling. Many people copy and paste the wishes as a routine and send it as a group text at one time, which may show a lack of sincerity to some people but it's quite common now.

大年初一dà nián chū yī— The first day of the lunar New Year

1. Giving red packet

On the first day of the New Year, people will wear their new clothes and go to their paternal grandmother's home to pay their respects. The adult will give the young generation a red packet containing the gift money which is called 红包hóng bāo. and when the kids receive the gift money, they should say the New Year blessings such as 身体健康shēn tǐ jiàn kāng (wish you good health),万事如意wàn shì rú yì (may all go well with you!) etc.How much do Chinese people give in a red packet?The amount of gift money in red packets varies from person to person. It also depends on the different customs of different places. I was born and raised in the Northern China, and the amount that the Northern people decide to give depends on how close their relationship to the recipient is. For instance, the parents or grandparents usually give their children or grandchildren the biggest amount and the other relatives usually give less.Furthermore, the gift money exchange is not restricted to family. In fact, Chinese people also give gift money to their friends' children as a way of showing friendship.However, in Guangdong province and Hong Kong, it is a custom that the married should give the unmarried a red packet which is called 利是(lìshì)as a blessing during Chinese New Year, but the amount can be a lot less, usually HKD 20 to HKD 50 , as it is only used as a token of courtesy. So if you are married, don't forget to bring some 利是 with you when you stay in Hong Kong or Guangdong during Chinese New Year to give 利是 to your unmarried friends or colleagues. As the old saying goes, when you are in Rome, do as the Romans do.Giving red packet through WeChatAs the mobile phone's payment function becomes more and more prevailing and convenient, people began to send the gift money through WeChat (one of the most popular chatting applications in China with a payment function) despite the long distance.

2. Wear red when it is the year of your Chinese Zodiac sign

To put it simply, the Chinese Chinese Zodiac is a repeating twelve-year circle and each year is represented by one of the 12 animals. In order, these zodiac signs are  Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. A person will meet his or her birth sign animal year when he or she is 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, etc.It is considered that the person may suffer from misfortunes when it is the year of his their zodiac sign according to Chinese superstition. Hence why it is suggested to wear something red to get rid of the bad luck. (usually red underwear socks or belts)The small stick figure on the bottom of these red socks representrs the backstabber who may appear in your life this year. By wearing these, it symnbolises stepping on the backstabber to stop them from doing bad things behind your back.

3. Eating dumplings &Tāng yuán

Dumpings is one of the most traditional Chinese foods. Eating dumplings on the morning of the first day of the Chinese New Year has been a long cherished tradition for Northern Chinese. The stuffing for dumplings can have various combinations, the most common ones including celery pork, cabbage pork, Garlic chives pork or Garlic chives with eggs and so on.There are many folk stories about why Chinese people should eat dumplings during Chinese New Year; one easy explanation is that the shape of the dumplings looks like the shoe-shaped gold ingot in ancient China, which contains the wealth and luck for the whole coming year.Tāng yuán, as you can see from the following picture, is a glutinous rice ball which contains a sweet stuffing, the most common being sesame or peanut. In the south part of China, people eat Tāng yuán instead of dumplings during Chinese New Year to pray for the family reunionand happiness.This article gives you a picture of how a typical Chinese family celebrates Chinese New Year these days. However, there are more activities going on in China during Chinese New Year than introduced here and the traditions and customs during Chinese New Year actually vary from the north to the south. So if you are going to visit your friends during Chinese New Year in China, say the traditional auspicious words to your friends and they'll be very delighted to let you join in their happy festivities.