Chinese New Year

Celebrations and traditions

Lucky envelopes

Preparations for the New Year begin a month before. People begin to buy gifts and decorations, and new clothes for the festival. Houses are cleaned all over to sweep out any bad luck. People do not sweep on New Year’s day in case they sweep away good luck People have their hair cut. During New Year, people avoid doing anything that might cut into the good luck of the New Year, so sharp knives and scissors are put away, and people avoid arguing so that they don’t use sharp words. Everybody tries to put right things they have done wrong during the year and debts are paid back, so that everyone has a fresh start to the year. People go to temples to remember their ancestors.

New Year’s Eve

Doors and windows are decorated with red and gold decorations. Red is a lucky colour and gold stands for wealth. An old Chinese legend tells of the demon Nian, who used to come down out of his mountain home at New Year and terrify the villagers. The villagers got together and hatched a plan to get rid of Nian. The next time Nian came to the village, they all put on bright red clothes and made loud noises. This frightened Nian away, so every year, people wear red and let off fireworks to keep any evil away.

On New Year’s Eve, red paper seals are put across doors to keep out evil. Families gather for a feast and children are allowed to stay up until midnight to see in the New Year. At midnight, fireworks are let off to welcome the new year and ward off evil and bad luck.

New Year’s Day

Early on New Year’s Day, children and young unmarried adults are given small red envelopes called lucky money packets. Each packet contains money or sweets. It is thought to be very rude to open the packet in front of the person who gave it, so they are opened later on. The packets are often decorated with lucky symbols.

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