20 Things You Never Knew About the Chinese New Year
Vibrant, festive, and full of hope, Chinese New Year brings families together to do away with any negative energy from previous months, ushering in a time of positivity, good fortune, and an abundance of riches. Read on to learn more about the deep traditions and modern practices associated with this special holiday.
Chinese New Year
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In 2020, the Chinese New Year falls on January 25. This year is the year of the Rat. Read on to learn more about this important holiday. Also, educate yourself on the history of Chinese New Year.
The most common Chinese New Year greeting is “Guo Nian Hao” which means “Happy New Year.” “The most amusing fact about this greeting is that in a Chinese New Year story, a Nian is a fierce and cruel monster that eats livestock and children, but is scared of the color red and the sound of firecrackers,” explains Ming Wang, MD, a Nashville-based eye surgeon who teams with Steinway Piano Nashville annually to offer a free concert during the holiday with all donations going toward his non-profit to help the blind.
On the move
“The Chinese New Year is the longest public holiday in China. Employees have 7 to 12 days off work, and students have one month of winter vacation,” he says. “No matter where they live, Chinese try to return home to be with their families for Chinese New Year, just as Americans do for Christmas. This creates the world’s largest annual migration, known as the Spring Festival Travel Rush. The total annual trips by plane, train, bus, and ship can reach nearly three billion.” China Train Booking echoes Wang’s statement and offers travel tips for revelers.
Let’s get loud
The Lunar New Year celebration is the only time in the year that fireworks can be set off, according to Dr. Wang. “No other celebration in any other country lights as many tons of fireworks as in China around midnight at the beginning of Chinese New Year,” he says. “China also produces about 90 percent of the world’s fireworks!”
To be happy and healthy
No holiday would be complete without a special meal and Chinese New Year is no different. “Duck is one of the popular dishes at dinner as it is considered a special and traditional dish to kick off the new year that means we will have a happy, healthy, and prosperous year,” says Han Lijun, owner and executive chef of San Francisco’s famous Sichuan restaurant, Z&Y Restaurant, located in the city’s Chinatown district. “The skin of the Peking duck is red and crispy. Red is a symbol of luck.” Learn more about why red is such an important color during Chinese New Year.
A long life
Who doesn’t love a comforting dish of noodles? The dish has more meaning during Chinese New Year than you might think. “People will often eat noodles on the second day of the Lunar New Year as noodles mean longevity,” says Lijun. “They are a symbol and acknowledgment of your hopes and fears, wrapped up in the long strand of a noodle. Every year we eat our Lanzhou Beef Noodles made with our house-made beef broth cooked for eight hours.” Find out 13 lucky foods to eat on New Year’s Eve.
Everything on the table of a Lunar New Year meal has meaning, making a dinner that much more special. “Eating fish to celebrate the Lunar New Year symbolizes wealth,” says Lijun. “Fish in Chinese has the same pronunciation as ‘leftover’ but it doesn’t mean leftover food, it means leftover money. Don’t spend all of your money and be sure to save for your future. We recommend eating Steamed Whole Fish with Sichuan Small Green Pepper like we serve at Z&Y Restaurant.”
The meaning behind dumplings
Often families will come together for an evening of dumpling making to celebrate the holiday. “Dumplings have a variety of symbolic meanings,” says Lijun. “They symbolize happiness, prosperity, and people believe that dumplings will bring good luck for the coming year.” A favorite dish at his restaurant is the Spice Pork & Shrimp Dumplings. Check out more about the history of Chinese New Year.
Don’t clean up
Put down that broom! While Americans might go on a cleaning frenzy prior to having relatives over for the holidays, it’s bad luck to clean while celebrating Chinese New Year. “Do not cut your hair or clean your room or house during Chinese New Year,” says Melissa Lee, a first generation bilingual Chinese-American living in Los Angeles. “It symbolizes washing away any good spirits/fortune that may come your way during the new year.”
The Chinese Lunar New Year is also known as the Spring Festival. “It celebrates ‘Yuan,’ the harmony of family,” says Bette Steflik, a certified Feng Shui consultant and author of Recipes for Living. “The traditions, customs, celebrations, and food customs inspire the five blessings: long life, wealth, peace, virtue and honor.”