How to Celebrate Chinese New Year – Rituals, Recipes and Good Luck

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For many Asian cultures, the Lunar New Year is a very big event held on the first day of the new year in the Chinese Calendar. This year, it happens to fall on Saturday, Jan 25th. The history of the Chinese New Year Festival can be traced back to about 3,500 years ago (that’s a mighty long time!).

A Legend of the Origin of Chinese New Year

Like all traditional festivals in China, Chinese New Year is steeped with stories and myths. One of the most popular is about the mythical beast Nian (/nyen/), who ate livestock, crops, and even people on the eve of a new year. (It’s interesting that Nian, the ‘yearly beast’, sounds the same as ‘year’ in Chinese.)

To prevent Nian from attacking people and causing destruction, people put food at their doors for Nian. Of course! Food is always a good solution!

In Modern Times

In 1912, the government decided to abolish Chinese New Year and the lunar calendar, but adopted the Gregorian calendar instead and made January 1 the official start of the new year.

After 1949, Chinese New Year was renamed to the Spring Festival. It was listed as a nationwide public holiday.

Nowadays, many traditional activities are disappearing, but new trends have been generated. CCTV (China Central Television) Spring Festival Gala, shopping online, WeChat red envelopes, Snapchat Chinese New Year filters, and overseas travel make Chinese New Year more interesting and colorful.

How and Where to celebrate the Chinese New Year

Each culture has its own way of celebrating – from decorations and traditional ceremonies to amazing food.

In many cities around the world (not just in China), Chinese communities will hold large public celebrations where anyone with an interest can take part and experience the event for themselves. To celebrate the Chinese New Year in your own home, here are a few tips:

1. Decorate windows, doors and vases with red paper cut-outs or lanterns. You can also fill vases with flowers such as chrysanthemums, marigolds, white daffodils, or sunflowers – which symbolize luck, prosperity and longevity.

2. Prepare a feast for dinner with noodles, dumplings and fish. Noodles symbolize longevity, so serving them on the Lunar New Year is meant to signal a long and prosperous life…at least for the year ahead. Need recipe inspiration? Check out BakeSpace’s collection of Asian Recipes uploaded by our members.

3. Try making your own mochi or sticky rice cake. They can be filled and flavored in a number of ways, and are relatively easy to make. Traditionally, the filling should be red bean paste, but try them with peanut butter, Nutella, fruit, ganache or dusted with praline or shaved chocolate for something a bit different.

4. Get up early with a loved one to observe the sunrise. This is a tradition in Japanese culture known as ‘Hatsuhinode’ – where people drive to the coast or up into the mountains to observe the first sunrise of the new Lunar year.

5. Buy some little red envelopes from your local Asian grocer and use them to present your children, family, friends, employees, etc with money in them. This is a symbol of good future to come in the new year.  Alternatively, present close friends or relatives with a basket of fruit, cakes, biscuits or other small edibles gifts to wish them well in the new Lunar year.

6. Gather together with your family and/or friends to reminisce about the year that has passed and welcome the new Lunar year. This is not dissimilar to the Western tradition of new year’s resolutions, except you do it together in order to reflect and wish each other goodwill for the new year.

There are many other ways to celebrate this occasion, but hopefully, these suggestions will inspire you to try something different and learn about cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year!

What are you doing for the Lunar New Year? Share your ideas below in our comments section…

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