Chinese New Year is filled with cherished traditions that people follow in hopes of attracting good fortune and warding off evil spirits. In Hong Kong, for example, Chinese New Year traditions include visiting the Chinese New Year Fair at Victoria Park and bringing home a colorful windmill from Che Kung Temple or Wong Tai Sin Temple for year-round prosperity.
Other customs and traditions involve eating special dishes, putting up décor, wearing a specific color of clothes, and more.
Virginia Chan, founder of Humid with a Chance of Fishballs Tours, shares the most important tradition she follows every year is partaking of a special dinner with her whole family. And the spread, she says, must always include shrimp.
“A tradition we had whilst growing up was that my mom would always include shrimp into this dinner,” relates Chan.
She continues, “It wasn’t until I moved to Hong Kong that I learned that the reason people eat shrimp for the Chinese New Year dinner is because shrimp (ha) sounds like laughter, so it is a good omen for happiness.”
In the kitchen of Wong Wing-keung, executive chef at Man Wah in Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Egg Noodles with Crabmeat and Crab Roes is usually prepared as “this dish is known for symbolizing auspiciousness.”
“Another favorite festive dish of mine is Braised Vegetables with Red Fermented Bean Curd which stems from a Buddhist tradition which believes that vegetables purify and cleanse the body and soul,” adds Chef Wong.
Wearing red clothes
Clothes in red, the color believed to scare away evil and bad fortunes, are commonly worn throughout the Chinese New Year.
“On the first day of Chinese New Year, we typically dress in various shades of the lucky color red,” says Conny Wong, author-publisher of children’s picture book series Mini Love Tales.
Virginia Chan seconds, sharing that she buys a new top and underwear, both in red, that she wears on the first day of New Year.
Cleaning the house
Giving the house a thorough cleaning days before the New Year celebration is another Chinese tradition believed to sweep away bad luck and open up the home for good luck.
“Every year just before the Chinese New Year, we do a deep cleaning of the house, purging our home of items that we no longer use or need, and donate them to a charity,” relates Coco Chan, soul coach and Akashic guide and mentor.
“We deep clean the house physically and energetically to transmute any old energies from the previous year. Just make sure to get it all done before the first day of the holidays, as cleaning during the actual New Year is said to bring bad luck. This sets the stage for us to welcome in any new year energies with abundance and clarity,” she explains.
Meanwhile, Chef Wong shares, “Before Chinese New Year, I would clean every corner of the house as well as all the kitchenware.”
Aside from a clean house, it is also a custom to start the year with a fresh look. However, it is advised that any haircuts must be done before the New Year.
“It’s important to welcome the New Year looking clean and fresh. I have also always avoided having a haircut or buying shoes during the holidays as they’re said to bring bad luck for the year,” says Chef Wong.
Decorating with red lanterns and blooms
Home décor also plays a huge role in attracting luck during Chinese New Year festivities.
Children’s Medical Foundation chief executive officer Estella Huang Luang says, “Every year, we visit the Mong Kok Flower Market to get bamboo stalks and water fairy flowers, as they all signify health, wealth, and family unity.”
“It is also traditional to decorate the home with red lanterns in order to attract ‘lucky’ energy!” she adds.
In Claire Yates’ household, on the other hand, decorations include flowers and trees.
“I always go overboard with decorations because they are just so beautiful,” enthuses The Lion Rock Press founder. “My favorite is a huge vase of silky pussy willow and golden yellow forsythia on which we hang our decorations as they always look glorious.”
“We also have a lovely orange tree we have on our doorstep, as orange and kumquat trees are said to bring wealth and prosperity. I love peeling and drying the skins afterwards,” adds Yates.
Yates says their family follows and does what their grandmother used to do, “like not sweeping away any fallen blossom from the tree.”
Speaking of flowers and trees, plum blossom tree is also believed to be lucky, according to Virginia Chan. “If I’m out with my grandma or aunties and they see a big plum blossom tree in full bloom, they’ll make me run around it three times clockwise in order to activate my romance luck for the year!”
Giving out money in a red envelope
Elders and employers traditionally give out money in red envelope on the first day of the new year.
“Before the holiday, we usually go to the bank to get crisp new bills to be put into red packets (lai see). Lai see is typically given out to family, friends, children, and employees over the holidays, and is a nice way of bestowing luck, happiness, and fortune on those who are younger or more junior to you,” says Wong.
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