Chinese New Year — Spring Festival

Lanterns for Spring Festival

What Is the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival?


Chinese New Year, also named Spring Festival or Chunjie, is the biggest festival in China that is related to the worshiping of ancestors and heaven, and reunion with family.


It usually requires at least a week's preparation and lasts for half a month. 


Everything included during this period, decorations, chores, food, etiquette, celebrating activities, etc., formed the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year culture.


When Is Chinese New Year and Why Are the Dates Different Each Year?


New Year is the end of frigid winter, the beginning of the new year, and the hopeful spring. 


Since the year 104 BC, with the approval of Emperor Wudi, the Chinese New Year has been celebrated on the 1st of January of the Chinese Traditional Calendar


Besides, the Chinese Traditional Calendar is a Lunisolar Calendar that is different from the Gregorian Calendar. 


Therefore, the date of each year's Spring Festival is varied when they are transformed into Gregorian Calendar, usually somewhere between the 21st of January to the 21st of February. 


How to Check Each New Year's Chinese Zodiac Sign?


In ancient China, the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches System, also known as Sexagenary Cycle has been used as ordinal numbers to mark time since the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC — 1046 BC).


After Chinese Zodiac Signs were formed centuries later, each year got a zodiac sign to represent. 


However, since the dates of the Spring Festival varied in the Gregorian Calendar, each year's zodiac sign starts on different dates too.


Click to Check Chinese Zodiac Signs for Each Year


Why Is the Chinese New Year Celebrated?


Throughout thousands of years of history, reasons for celebrating Chinese New Year have been:


  • To worship heaven, deities, and ancestors, and to pray for blessings for the new year;

  • To disperse the frigidness of winter and evil monsters (especially the one named "Nian");

  • To celebrate the agricultural harvest of the previous year;

  • To welcome hopeful spring;

  • To reunite and enjoy feasts with family.


Schedules and Traditions for Celebrating Chinese New Year


In the Chinese Traditional Calendar:

Preparation Works

23rd (in northern China) or 24th (in southern China) of Dec.: 

  • To worship Kitchen God (Zao Wang Ye), and eat malt sugar candy (Tang Gua).

It is believed that every family has a Kitchen God that is guarding their house, who will go back to heaven on that day and report everything that happened in this family in the past year. 

Beautiful firecrackers are used to see off all Kitchen Gods, and malt sugar candies are offered to make them feel sticky and sweet so that they won't say any bad things about the family.

Malt Sugar Candy or Tanggua, the traditional food of Chinese New Year.

Malt Sugar Candy or Tanggua, the traditional food of Chinese New Year.

24th or 25th of Dec.:

  • To clean the entire house, and set up auspicious decorations.

25th to 29th of Dec.:

  • Shopping for new clothes, cooking or buying food for the holidays, getting haircuts, and so on. 


Celebration and Custom

30th of Dec. the Eve of the Chinese New Year:

  • Paste couplets and door gods;

  • Worship ancestors;

  • Prepare and eat feast dinner with family;

  • Welcome the Kitchen God back;

  • Make dumplings for the next few days;

  • Watch Spring Festival Gala (or Chun Wan) on TV;

  • Stay up late till midnight (some places stay awake the whole night) to welcome the new year;​

  • Set firecrackers (nowadays not allowed in many places in China because of the environment);

  • Hand out money (Yasuiqian) in red envelopes to kids.

Yasuiqian in red envelopes given to children in Chinese New Year

1st of Jan.:

  • Worship heaven and ancestors;

  • Visit and pray at temples for religious people;

  • Wear new clothes and visit important relatives (usually the father's parents, or the man's parents for married couples);

  • Send new year's greetings to family and friends;

  • Eat Dumplings in northern China, or Sticky Rice Cake (Nian Gao) or Glutinous Rice Ball (Tangyuan) in the south;

  • Set firecrackers.

Firecrackers in the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year

2nd of Jan.:

  • Visit mother's parents or woman’s parents for married couples;

  • Hand out gifts, like candy or dessert, or money in red envelopes to kids;

  • Eat noodles, dumplings, and feast with family;

  • In some southern places in China, eat the Opening Spring Festival Banquet (Kainianfan) which includes certain types of auspicious dishes.


3rd and 4th of Jan.:

  • Visit other relatives and friends, and have a feast with them.

5th of Jan.:

  • Welcome and worship God of Wealth;

  • Sweep the floor and throw out the trash to send away the God of Poverty;

  • Set firecrackers and eat dumplings;

  • Open up markets;

  • In some places of southern China, bosses would hand out Give Money (Lishi) in red envelopes to employees.

Picture of God of Wealth in Chinese Culture

Picture of God of Wealth in Chinese Culture

6th to 12th of Jan.:

  • Hold worship ceremonies to different deities in different places and religions;

  • Attend Temple Fairs;

  • Visit performances like Dragon and Lion Dances;

  • Reunite with old friends;

  • Participate in different, local celebrations;

  • Many people would go back to work nowadays.


13th to 14th of Jan.:

Lantern Festival, the End of Chinese New Year Celebration

What People Usually Don't Do during Chinese New Year?


  • Do not say unlucky words during New Year, such as "death", "over", "ghost"etc.;

  • Do not sweep the floor, do laundry, nor throw out garbage from 1st to 4th of Jan.;

  • Do not use the knife, needle, scissor, and other sharp tools on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of Jan.;

  • Do not fight or argue with anyone during the festival;

  • Do not cry or yell at children;

  • Do not borrow nor collect debts;

  • Do not get haircuts during the entire January.


Necessary Decorations for Chinese New Year


The Traditional Food of Chinese New Year