Chinese New Year — Spring Festival

Lanterns for Spring Festival

What is the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival?


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


Chinese New Year 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 the dates are different?


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


Since the year 104 BC, with the approval of Emperor Wudi, 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 know 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 the Chinese New Year is celebrated?


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


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

  • To disperse 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.


Schedule, customs, traditions for celebrating Chinese New Year


In 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 in 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 of the Spring Festival

30th of Dec. the Eve of the Spring Festival:

  • 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 on temples for religious people;

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

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

  • Eat Dumpling 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 noodle, dumpling, and feast with family;

  • In some southern places in China, eat the Opening Spring Festival Banquet (Kainianfan) that 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 Chinese 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


Famous performances of Chinese New Year

Dragon Dance and Lion Dance: 


In ancient sacred sacrifice and worship ceremonies, people used to imitate dragon and lion, two auspicious mythical animals, to pray for blessings. 


About 1000 to 2000 years ago, Dragon and Lion Dance became popular entertainment activities in important festivals, whose costumes, skills, steps, movements, appearances, props, all varied among different places in China.

Dragon Dance and Lion Dance in Chinese New Year the Spring Festival

Pageant on Immortals (You Shen):


In many places of China on important festivals, people would respectfully set statues of deities of their local temples on a well-decorated sedan chair, show them around the city that they are protecting, and wishing them to cast blessings to people.  


Though different in each place, a Pageant on Immortals usually includes some important statues of deities, a grand touring team that leads and carries deities, and countless civilians that are welcoming them on the street and praying for fortune.

Pageant on Immortals (You Shen) in Chinese New Year the Spring Festival

Tai Ge or Piao Se:


In important festival processions, someone would dress up, dance, or perform figures from ancient legends, mythology, and history on a moving platform that is carried by people. 


The performing platforms are usually tall, with exquisite decorations. When they are moving, figures dancing and performing look like floating on air, which is quite splendid. 


Hence, it has been a popular performance in important festivals in Chinese culture.

Tai Ge or Piao Se in Chinese New Year the Spring Festival