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Chinese New Year: Essential Things You Need to Know

All of us at eTranslation Services wish our Chinese friends and clients

Happy Chinese New Year.

To our Mandarin-speaking friends, Gong Xǐ Fā Cái

and to our Cantonese-speaking friends, Gung Hei Faat Choih!


This year, Chinese New Year will be on January 25. Commonly called in China as the Spring Festival, several countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia, such a Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Mauritius celebrate the holiday as well. Of course, Chinatowns across the globe observe the holiday in a grand way, with plenty of fireworks, lion and dragon dances, parades, gift-giving, traditional snacks, and feasts. It is called the Spring Festival because it marks the end of winter and start of spring, according to the Chinese calendar.

A Long Public Holiday

The celebration of the Chinese New Year is China’s longest public holiday. Students enjoy their winter vacation for one month, while employees in China can have days off between 7 and 12 days. It is full of traditional customs and observances, with most of the fun and raucous activities happening on January 24, the eve of Chinese New Year. Many countries have embraced cultural diversity and people from other cultures often join in the celebration of the Chinese New Year.

A Series of Activities

Four key activities mark the preparation and observance of the Chinese New Year, such as decorating homes, offices, places of business, and public spaces. Families eat a reunion dinner on the eve of the New Year and light fireworks and firecrackers. Children and older people expect receipt of the famous ”red envelopes” that contain cash. It’s also a custom for employers to give red envelopes to their employees. Homes, offices and buildings will have red and gold decorations, such as lanterns, couplets, and pictures of prosperity images.

Preparing for the Chinese New Year

It follows a series of steps:

  1. Thorough house cleaning is usually 7 days before Chinese New Year’s Eve. People start shopping as well. Putting up of street decoration starts.
  2. On the day of New Year’s Eve people decorate their homes and prepare the reunion dinner. They will be preparing their firecrackers. The country’s TV stations will broadcast the New Year Gala. Families prepare prayer and food offerings for their ancestors.
  3. At dawn families will be wearing new clothes, lighting their fireworks, exchange gifts, give greetings to family members and pass the red envelopes to children and elders.
  4. The day after the New Year is reserved for visiting relatives and friends who live nearby. There will still be fireworks. Married daughters will be visiting the homes of their parents to give them their greetings and gifts.
  5. The third day of the New Year is for visiting friends and relatives who live in other cities and villages.
  6. On the fourth and fifth days of the New Year, some people will still travel to visit friends and relatives. Other people use the time to relax, while others will be traveling back to their homes.
  7. The Chinese go back to work on the sixth day of the New Year.
  8. From the seventh to the fifteenth day of the New Year, the decorations are still up. People are coming back to work. Schools reopen and businesses are back to their normal operating hours.
  9. On the fifteenth day is the Lantern Festival, where thousands of colorful lanterns are hung over streets, parks and squares. People either send paper lanterns into the sky or they float lighted lanterns on lakes, rivers and the sea.


The Chinese use many symbols that carry different meanings. Some of these symbols used to be amulets in the past. For example, a red poster printed with poetic verses means joy and good fortune. A fish is a symbol of abundance. “Good luck for the coming year” is the usual meaning of a firecracker image, while a red lantern symbolizes prosperity and luck. Traditionally, the red lantern is to light the way for the Kitchen God as it visits the Jade Emperor. Oranges and tangerines are symbols of wealth and luck, respectively. Decorations during the Chinese New Year include plum blossoms which are a symbol of a reliable person while peach blossoms represent prosperity, romance and long life. To attract wealth, the Chinese display gold and silver boat shaped ingots or yuanbao, which were used as money in ancient China.

Beliefs, Taboos, Do’s and Don’ts

Chinese culture is intriguing, fascinating, mystical, and mythical. They have several superstitions, beliefs, customs and traditions that even the modern generation follow. For the New Year, there are several things that each person can or cannot do. Here are some of them. On New Year’s Day, here are some of the things they should not do:

  • Get a haircut
  • Wash their hair
  • Wash their clothes
  • Eat porridge
  • Eat meat
  • Sweep the floor
  • Do needlework
  • Use knives and scissors
  • Swear
  • Break things
  • Cry
  • Borrow or lend money
  • Visit the hospital
  • Take manufactured or herbal medicine
  • Take out the garbage
  • Wear black or white
  • Wear clothes that are damaged
  • Leave rice bin empty

The Chinese people pray to their gods and their ancestors to guide and bless them throughout the new year. They choose the best food items to offer to their ancestors and their gods. Likewise, they serve different food items that have special meanings. These food items represent positive things for the new year.

  • Fish – for increasing prosperity
  • Spring rolls and dumplings – for wealth
  • Sweet rice balls – for keeping the family together
  • Glutinous rice cakes – for higher position or income
  • Noodles – longevity and happiness
  • Pomelos, oranges and tangerines – ”good fortune fruits” for wealth and fullness

Chinese culture is one of the oldest in the world, so it is difficult to discuss everything at once. The activities, as well as the traditional beliefs for the celebration of the Chinese New Year, are intricate, so the things we have here are some of the facts that are worth knowing.

Do You Need Translation Services in Mandarin or Cantonese? Contact Us!

For high quality, accurate translations from and into Mandarin or Cantonese, trust the professional native-speaking translators of eTranslation Services. You can reach us at (800) 882-6058 or at [email protected]. Image Copyright: Le La Kam [CC BY-SA]

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