Last year, we had been home for a couple of months when Chinese New Year rolled around. Still adjusting to our new normal, I remember frantically ordering a few decorations from Amazon Prime to celebrate the occasion.
This year, I wanted to be much more intentional about how our family celebrates this important holiday, so I’ve been doing a little research and would love to share some of it with you all…
Chinese New Year is celebrated on a different day each year, which is calculated based on the lunar calendar. This year it falls on January 28th. The celebration lasts from the night before CNY until the Lantern Festival which is 15 days later.
Traditionally, the biggest celebrations are held on New Year’s Eve (January 27th this year), with families hosting large meals, and gathering to eat together.
I’ve started 2017 by making resolutions to eat healthier, exercise, and be more organized. Similarly, Chinese New Year preparations revolve around the same idea of out with the old and in with the new. Literally. Chinese people prepare for the holiday by cleaning their homes. If you’re familiar with the board book, Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin, there is a great visual for this preparation. (I highly recommend this book if you have younger children, by the way.)
I love this sweeping the old year out of the house. Some ways that I’ve seen other families give life to this idea:
1. Doing an actual spring clean of their entire homes.
2. Removing all of the Christmas ornaments from their Christmas trees, and replacing them with red ornaments to symbolize and celebrate Chinese New Year.
3. Even just creating a nice space in one room to put up a few decorations that celebrate China.
Once the old year is swept out, decorations are placed around the home to welcome the New Year.
I asked a friend from China how she and her family decorate. She suggested that I look for Spring Festival couplets (here is an example), and paper decorations which are often placed in the windows (here is an example).
In addition to decorating and cleaning, children are traditionally given hong bao to celebrate the New Year. My Chinese friend tells me that it is tradition that these red envelopes are placed under the child’s pillow on New Year’s Eve. Her family gives around 100 RMB, or $14 USD. (You can also give hong bao to your elders, friends, or other family members.)
She tells me that for the New Year feast, she and her family always wear new clothes. They also prepare by getting a fresh, new haircut. Again, it is important to create intentional practices that demonstrate a fresh start, and offer the promise of hope and well wishes for the coming year.
Here is Cheng Cheng wearing his fancy silks and new haircut to celebrate the New Year in 2016:
Last year, we ate at our favorite local Chinese restaurant — the hit of the night were these bubble pancakes the size of our heads.
This year, I plan to cook a meal for my whole family, and I hope to incorporate some of the simple Chinese cooking that my son loves. My friend suggests that we eat chicken and fish, Chinese sausage and bacon, sweet rice cakes. Dumplings (pork with leeks, and onions with beef).
We will likely make a trip to the Asian grocery for special noodles, and other snacks that we can’t find at our local store. I will also suggest these soup dumplings from Trader Joe’s which my boy could eat by the caseload:
Although we may not celebrate exactly as we would if we lived in China, I hope that we will be able to maintain a celebration of the essence of the holiday which will honor our son’s home and culture.
Please feel free to tell us some of the ways that your family celebrates Chinese New Year in the comments below!