Chinese New Year Customs
“The joy of celebration is always associated with food”
During the half a month-long festival there are various customs and traditions performed by those who celebrate Chinese New Year.
Events such as Dragon and Lion parades take place, firework displays, street markets and more. However, one of the most important aspects of the festival is the coming together of family for food and parties.
On the eve of New Year’s Day everyone is expected home for dinner; the night is sometimes referred to as Reunion Night. With so many families now spread apart the amount of travelling can be vast. It is referred to as Chunyun or Spring Migration.
In the 60 days before Chinese New Year train tickets in China were sold at around 1,000 per second in a bid to make sure families were reunited for the special day.
Reunion Night is arguably the most significant celebration of Chinese New Year. Families not only reunite, they bond, talk, share and enjoy lovingly prepared traditional and favourite authentic food and look forward to the good fortune of the coming New Year.
Eating dumplings is an essential tradition on New Year’s Eve. The Chinese word for dumplings (饺子—jiǎo zi) sounds like 交子(jiāo zi). As 交 (Jiāo) means “exchange” and 子(zi) is the midnight hours. Dumplings are prepared on New Year’s Eve to be eaten during the hours of 11pm to 1am, to send away the old and welcome the new!
As the holiday marks the beginning of the new harvest, spring rolls are eaten to celebrate the coming of spring.
They are eaten on the first day of spring and may be served as a snack, starter or for dinner.
Whilst children are obviously expected to be in the family home on New Year’s Day, married couples are expected to be with the groom’s family. Wives traditionally become part of the groom’s family once married and long ago, even needed permission to visit their parents during the year. The second day of the festival was the only day reserved specifically for the bride to see her parents.
Family hierarchy and ‘Lucky Money’
The Chinese culture revolves around family and generational respect. Emphasis is placed around manners and politeness. The act of greeting and blessing is key to the Chinese philosophy of New Year and the eldest in the family must be visited first.
In return for the visit, elders will gift the younger generations with money-filled red envelopes called Lucky Money. It is “money to anchor the year” meaning the warding away of evil spirits as well as representing the flow of prosperity between generations.
However, red envelopes have not always been the tradition. In the past, parents would hook coins in the shape of donuts onto red strings and then gift them to their children. Over time the red string became red paper and now, red envelopes.
Not only do children benefit from this tradition but in some parts of China, married couples may even give their single friends these red envelopes to transfer some luck.
Tips for Chinese New Year Celebrations
Whilst the flow of prosperity is important so is the coming together of the family, meal time is significant in Chinese New Year. Here are a few top tips that might help you if you’re not familiar with Chinese New Year dinner customs:
– Unlike Western society, when eating it is actually polite to keep your elbows on the table but never, ever stick your chopsticks straight into your bowl of rice. Elders may interpret this as burning incense to commemorate passed ancestors.
– Eat everything on your plate but be wary that if someone sees your plate empty, they will more than likely try to fill you up with more food!
– Conversation around the dinner table can be just as important as the food being eaten. In general, avoid any negative conversation including illness or death. Avoid saying the number four as in Chinese the pronunciation is similar to that of the word fordeath and considered to bring bad luck.
– And, most important of all, Chinese New Year is a time of happiness and celebration so no arguments or fights as you’ll only receive bad luck!
Lu Ban Restaurant is located in Cains Brewery Village, in the former site of the Red Brick Market in the heart of Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle area.
Lu Ban Restaurant
Cains Brewery Village
Liverpool L8 5XJ