Chinese New Year: Fun ways to celebrate the ancient tradition

Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. Known as “Spring Festival,” the festival begins on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival, celebrated on the 15th day.

This year, the year of the Rabbit, is said to be a more peaceful and placid year offering a nice break from the fast-paced year of the Tiger in 2010. The year of the Rabbit is a good time to reflect, rest and plan for the coming year. Amid the lavish festivities and parties that take place around China and in Chinatowns around the world, the Chinese New Year also celebrates some fun and quirky traditions.

I caught up with my friends at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong to learn a little more about what the Chinese New Year means to them, and get some interesting facts and stats on how to properly celebrate Chinese New Year, no matter where you reside.

  • The most common term used over the Chinese New Year is “KUNG HEI FAT CHOY” which translates to “Congratulations and To Be Prosperous” in the coming year.
  • Traditional Chinese families and companies will invite in a Lion Dance Troupe as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Lunar New Year and remove any bad spirits. During the ‘Lion Dance’ performance, the Lion will perform the traditional custom of “Cai Ching”, meaning plucking a lettuce with his mouth, which is normally hung from the ceiling, which he will then chew and spit out at the end of the dance, meant to symbolize “More Prosperity” in the coming year. (The Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong will be hosting a Lion Dance performance on Feb. 3 in their lobby.)
  • Did you know that during the Chinese New Year celebrations you are supposed to arrange “New Year Visits” to close relatives and friends? During these visits the elders will give their younger guests, who are not married, a red packet with money inside. The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to fight off evil spirits.
  • The God of Wealth plays a significant role during every Chinese New Year and will deliver Lai-See packets with money, or chocolate money, inside to promote Prosperity in the coming year.
  • Fireworks are an essential part of the Chinese New Year celebrations – in ancient China, it was believed these fireworks or firecrackers drove away evil spirits. The fireworks and firecrackers are rolled up in red paper – the color of luck. This year, a fireworks extravaganza will take place on Feb. 4 and will light the skies of Victoria Harbour.
  • Kumquat trees, narcissus and peonies are believed to bring prosperity; peach blossoms add fire to romance, while tangerine plants, with their leaves intact, help to ensure long-lasting relationships and ‘fruitful’ marriages. These plants are flowers are commonly distributed during Chinese New Year.
  • A Chinese Candy Box plays a significant role in the Chinese New Year. People prepare candy boxes with fruits and candies to offer good luck and good wishes to their loved ones. The Chinese Candy Box is filled with candy items such as Lotus root which represents strong family ties; Kumquats for prosperity; Coconut for friendship; Peanuts for longevity and Longan for happiness.
  • Red nail polish is very popular during the Chinese New Year because it symbolizes happiness and good luck.

Now that you’re armed with some of the favorite traditions of Chinese New Year, celebrate in style and enjoy the festivities, wherever in world you’re traveling.