新年快樂 – Happy Chinese New Year!
Or in Hong Kong and other Cantonese regions, 恭喜發財 – it means congratulations on the fortune.
A Little History
Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, has taken prominence and is celebrated all over the world. This New Year celebration is actually the longest Chinese holiday of the year (lasting 15-16 days) and is celebrated on a different day every year. Why? Because it follows the lunar calendar – the movement of the moon. This tradition has been around for almost 4000 years since the Han Dynasty in 202 BC-220 AD. The Emperor commanded the use of the lunar calendar and it has been put into practice ever since.
2019, Year of the Pig
Every year is represented by a different Chinese zodiac sign. 2019 is the year of the pig – a year of fortune and luck! A pig represents wealth, honesty, prosperity, generosity, and patience to name a few. And depending on your birth year, a different zodiac animal can represent you or your personality type and determine your career, health and relationship success – just like the western zodiac with the 12 different astrological signs of the year. In China, you have your real age (the day you were actually born), and a “fake” nominal age where you grow an extra year older on top of your real age because of the Spring Festival and the lunar calendar. So if you’re 35 in your real age, with the lunar calendar you are actually 36! In 2019, Chinese New Year or Spring Festival lands on February 5th – where everyonegrows a year older.
Chinese New Year is the most important holiday celebrated in China and it causes the largest human migration in the world. Everyone comes back home to celebrate and it is such a big event that it’s now known as the Spring Migration. As 1 out of every 5 people in the world is Chinese, not even including overseas Chinese and people of Chinese descent, it is a very busy and hectic time of the year, especially at airports – so it is good to be prepared and have everything in order before this big travel date. This time of year brings the anticipation of spending time with family and loved ones and enjoying one another’s company with amazing food, decorations, and traditions.
Specialty Food Dishes To Celebrate
There are many popular Chinese traditional food dishes with specific meanings that are used to celebrate the Spring Festival:
1 – Laba porridge 腊八粥. This porridge includes eight types of grains and is eaten on the 8th day of the 12th month in the Chinese calendar and is the subject of many different myths, but all teach the lesson of being grateful and not taking what you have for granted.
2 – Baked bread 馍饼. When you eat this bread, it’s believed that the road to wealth will be open and smooth for that year.
3 – Kumquats and sugarcanes means a sweet life and successful road ahead.
4 – Soup balls or sweet dumplings 湯圓. These soup balls have different filling inside, whether it be savoury or sweet, and are a popular dish as their name also sounds like the Chinese word for “reunion”. They are also shaped like the full moon.
5 – Fa Gao 發粿. It is a hybrid of muffins and a sponge cake. The word “fa” is the same as the word that means “get rich” in Chinese. People also dye these cakes in festive colours.
6 – Rice cake 年糕. When translated to English, it literally means “year cake” and it symbolizes success.
7 – Dumplings are to be eaten every meal for 5 days. With so many dishes to choose from, this tradition has been relaxed, but is still very much enjoyed.
8 – Tu Su Wine 屠蘇酒. Well you definitely can’t celebrate a new year without some wine! Chinese New Year calls for a specialty wine that was the Emperor’s first drink of the New Year. It is made with medicinal herbs and yellow rice wine and has many health benefits including disease prevention.
Celebrate Wherever You Are
If you’re a Chinese international student or an expatriate living or working away from home, we understand that if you can’t make it back for the New Year, this tradition will be sorely missed. But not to worry, you can bring these traditions to wherever you may be. You can also share these traditions with friends and show how proud you are of being an international student or expat. Creating a festive atmosphere where you are can really help you feel closer to where you came from. There are also many places you can go where you can join in on the celebrations of Spring Festival!
1 – Take a walk through China Town! Most cities in different countries have a China Town, full of traditional restaurants, little shops like the ones back home, architecture that mimic Chinese designs, and people who speak the language all over the streets.
2 – Even malls in different countries around the world celebrate Chinese New Year by hosting dragon dances, Chinese dances, and giving away red pockets with candies in them! How’s that for a little taste of back home?
3 – Don’t forget to call or video chat with your family! It’s always great to see familiar faces and how they are celebrating and wish a prosperous new year to the entire family all at once!
4 – Bring your traditions to where you are. Celebrate with friends and maybe teach them something new and what this festival means to you. You can have fun making dumplings and traditional Chinese dessert. Also, who wouldn’t love a red pocket if you’re feeling generous!
5 – Decorate your home in red to symbolize prosperity and happiness, like you do back home. It can be a reminder of this important tradition and bring happiness through familiarity.
6 – Have a night out at your favourite Chinese restaurant! They will sure know how to celebrate and you’ll be able to have a taste of home on that special day with everyone else around who is the doing the same thing.
7 – Buy your own fireworks! It may not be as grand as professional fireworks, but at least you and your friends can have fun lighting them up and seeing the beautiful colours in the sky.
8 – Why not host a hot pot dinner at your house? It may be cold, especially during this time of the year, and what better way to celebrate than to have a boiling hot buffet meal with your favourite meats, seafoods, and veggies and the ability to make your own special sauce to dip your food in.
9 – End this almost 23-day festival with your own lantern festival under the first full moon of the year! You can have fun making your own lanterns or buy them in Chinese stores. The Lantern Festival is also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day. In ancient times, the Chinese women who had to stay indoors most of their lives, were permitted to celebrate the lantern festival on the full moon of the month. Therefore, it was also the only time young men and women could meet with each other and fall in love. The Lantern Festival also symbolizes freedom, and it is a great reminder that you are free to travel to study or work where you please. Family will always be there and you will have your festive reunions again!
Comment below to let us know how you’re celebrating Chinese New Year!