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Chinese New Year Celebrations
 History of Chinese New Year  Before Chinese New Year’s Celebration  Celebrations on New Year’s Eve  15-Day Celebration of CNY

___ Chinese Customs around Chinese New Year’s Celebration

Chinese New Year, in traditional Chinese: 農曆新年; pinyin: Nónglì xīnnián; literal meaning: Agrarian Calendar New Year.

Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays and is celebrated as the Spring Festival (Traditional Chinese: 春; Pinyin: chūn, translated: spring (time), vitality. youthful, Traditional Chinese: 節; Pinyin: jié, translated: festival; section; segment; point; part). The Chinese New Year is based on the Chinese Calendar which complies with the phases of the moon. According to this, Chinese New Year begins on the first day of the first lunar month of the Chinese Calendar (see table below).

Chinese New Year will be celebrated all around the world in areas where a sizable Chinese population resides. The festival has many traditions that may vary regional, the most common ones are described below.
Traditionally the festival is a family event, everybody travels back home to meet the family and to visit relatives and friends, a practice known as "new-year visits" (Chinese: 拜年; pinyin: bàinián).

Days before the new year

The Kitchen God ascends to Heaven
The Kitchen God is a popular deity most Chinese would worship every year. Many Chinese homes have a paper image or a picture of the deity hung throughout the year near the family's stove.
The Kitchen God not only watches over the domestic affairs of a family, but he is also a moral force in the lives of all family members.
On the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, a week before the Chinese New Year, the Kitchen God, named Zao Jun or Zao Shen, ascends to Heaven to present his yearly report about each family member’s behaviour to the Jade Emperor. Special food offerings are provided for Zao Jun, so that he may speak well of the family. Zao Jun's ascent to heaven is accomplished by burning his image: The smoke rising to the heavens symbolically represents his journey to the Emperor of Heaven, while fire crackers are lit to speed up Zao Jun’s travel.

Spring cleaning
red banners
Red banners are hung down the doors to keep in good luck.
Photo: © nationsonline
Traditionally houses are cleaned on the 28th day (of the last month) of the (old) year, prior to the Chinese New Year, and red trimmings are placed on doorways and windows to scare away the monster Nian as it is afraid of the colour red. Red banners featuring words like ‘longevity’, good luck’, ‘happiness’ and such alike will be be displayed in homes. This practice diverted from hanging peach-wood charms on doors, since peach-wood is considered to keep away ghosts and evil spirits and enhance immortality.
Often bamboo leaves are used to clean the house, as bamboo is believed to drive out evil spirits. Cleaning the house symbolises sweeping out any misfortune or traces of bad luck.
During the Chinese New Year, sweeping the house should be avoided- especially during the first three days-, since otherwise upcoming good luck would be swept out. If one ought to sweep during the first three days of the New Year celebration (extremely superstitious Chinese say until the fifth day), it is important to collect the dust in a corner to keep the new arrived good luck inside the house.

Some people even hide their brooms and dust pans just to be sure not to be unlucky.
Offerings such as a Golden Flower with peacock feathers on house altars or shrines will be changed and burned, substituted by a new one in order to ‘blow out any bad luck of the past year and enhancing positive energies for the upcoming year'.

New cloth in the auspicious red colour are bought and will be worn for the first time in the early hours of the new year. Not only does the red colour scare the monster Nian, but new cloth symbolise a new start.
Visits to the barber for haircuts and hair-does will be necessary- a custom, gladly obeyed as it symbolises as well a fresh start.
Traditionally it is considered bad luck to wash one's hair during the first three days of the New Year as good fortune would be washed out.
Some people may take a bath with pomelo leaves the night before the new year, as the fruit is considered to enhance abundance, prosperity, having children, and good health in the year to come.
Symbolizing rebirth and new growth, live, fresh blooming plants, especially pots of kumquat representing gold, hence fortune and wealth or various other flowers can be found in Chinese homes.

Financial Matters
Lunar New Year is a time for settling debts. It is considered a loss of face for one to start a new year with unpaid debts, hence all financial debts will be settled on that day.

Preparing Food
The elaborate feast that is prepared for the celebration is also a way to show respect and pay tribute to the departed souls.
It has almost become obligatory to prepare food before the New Year's Day, as sharp instruments such as knives and scissors used for the preparation can be put away to avoid the 'cutting' effect of these. Lighting fires and using sharp utensils, knives or scissors is regarded to be bad luck on New Year's Day.

Year Associated Element Heavenly Stem Earthly Branch Associated Animal
Feb. 07 2008 - Jan. 25 2009 Yang Earth 戊 (wù) 子 (zǐ) Rat (鼠 - shǔ)
Jan. 26 2009 - Feb. 13 2010 Yin Earth 己 (jǐ) 丑 (chǒu) Ox (牛 - niú)
Feb. 14 2010 - Feb. 02 2011 Yang Metal 庚 (gēng) 寅 (yín) Tiger (虎 - hǔ)
Feb. 03 2011 - Jan. 22 2012 Yin Metal 辛 (xīn) 卯 (mǎo) Rabbit (兔 - tù)
Jan. 23 2012 - Feb. 09 2013 Yang Water 壬 (rén) 辰 (chén) Dragon (龍 - lóng)
Feb. 10 2013 - Jan. 30 2014 Yin Water 癸 (guǐ) 巳 (sì) Snake (蛇 - shé)
Jan. 31 2014 - Feb. 18 2015 Yang Wood 甲 (jiǎ) 午 (wǔ)

Horse (馬 - mǎ)

Feb. 19 2015 - Feb. 07 2016 Yin Wood 乙 (yǐ) 未 (wèi) Sheep (羊 - yáng)
Feb. 08 2016 - Jan. 27 2017 Yang Fire 丙 (bǐng) 申 (shēn) Monkey (猴 - hóu)
Jan. 28 2017 - Feb. 18 2018 Yin Fire 丁 (dīng) 酉 (yǒu) Rooster (雞 - jī)
Feb. 19 2018 - Feb. 04 2019 Yang Earth 戊 (wù) 戌 (xū) Dog (狗 - gǒu)
Feb. 05 2019 - Jan. 24 2020 Yin Earth 己 (jǐ) 亥 (hài) Pig (豬 - zhū)

Table of Chinese calendar dates with the associated 12 animal signs for the years 2008 until 2020.

read on: next Celebrations on New Year’s Eve

Note: Chinese New Year is celebrated in areas with large populations of ethnic Chinese, and as well in cultures with whom the Chinese have had extensive interaction, these include the culture of Bhutan, Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Taiwan, Vietnam, and formerly Japan before 1873.
Chinese New Year is also celebrated in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and other countries with significant Chinese populations, but it is not part of the traditional culture of these countries.

See also: China | Hong Kong | Macau | Tibet

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