[an error occurred while processing this directive] Chinese New Year Primer - Steven and Chris

Chinese New Year Primer


Gong Hay Fat Choy! Chinese New Year is the most important event in Chinese culture, falling on the second new moon after winter solstice (in 2015, it falls on Thursday, February 19). In China, people take off work and cross the country to join their families and partake in celebrations marked with colours, giving and big meals≠≠.

Chinese New Year 101

The Legend

According to legend, a mythological beast named Nian would come out of the sea on Chinese New Year day and destroy the animals and crops and eat children. People would place food outside the door to feed it, and wear red clothing and hang red lanterns (a colour feared by Nian). They'd even set off firecrackers to scare away the beast.

Holiday Traditions

  • Before New Year begins, give your home a good, deep clean, as housework during the holiday is considered "sweeping away good luck."
  • Get spiffy! Decorate your home, buy new clothes, and buy gifts for your family. But once the new year begins, do not buy shoes or handkerchiefs, which symbolize bad luck or departing.
  • Give money in red envelopes called “lai see” or “hong bao.” Married adults give them to children and bosses also present money-filled envelopes to employees. (Etiquette tip: do not open the envelope in front of the person who gifts it to you).
  • Light a lantern! A lantern festival marks the end of the holiday. On the 15th day, under a full moon, people stroll through public parks with lantern displays or light lanterns that float in the night sky.
  • Although “Gong Hay Fat Choy” is the most widely known greeting in North American culture, if you really want to impress, you can try New Year Goodness!
    • In Mandarin: /sshin-nyen haoww/
    • In Cantonese: /sen-nin haow/

Lucky Foods to Eat on Chinese New Year

  • Tangerines or mandarin oranges are a good gift to give and receive, symbolizing good fortune.
  • Dumplings symbolize wealth and prosperity because they are shaped like gold ingot pieces that were used as money in the 20th century
  • "Jai" a vegetarian noodle dish made with mushrooms that symbolize long life, carrots that represent good luck and cabbage that represents prosperity and luck.
  • Chicken symbolizes prosperity.
  • Fish symbolizes abundance and it's usually eaten whole and steamed.
  • There are many different types of desserts such as a steamed Chinese New Year cake made from rice flour, red bean soup, egg tarts or delicious almond cookies.

Avoid: Pears — considered an unlucky food because the Chinese word for pears sounds the same as the word for ‘parting.’

Year of the Goat

Each year is associated with one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. This New Year (2015) is the year of the Sheep or Goat (the Chinese character “yang” could translate as either animal)

Goat Personality Traits: 
Those born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1967, 1979, 1991 or 2003 are goats. The personality of a person born in the Year of the Goat mirrors the characteristics of the animal. People who are born in the Year of the Goat are thought to be peaceful, kind, artistic and have a good sense of fashion. They also like to travel and meet new people. Some famous Goat celebrities are Michelangelo, Thomas Edison, Pierre Trudeau, Julia Roberts and Will Ferrell.


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