Chinese New Year Traditions & Food

Instructor: Deanna Reid

Deanna has taught at the elementary and middle school level and has a Master's degree in Elementary Education K-8.

What traditions and foods are included in the observation of the Chinese New Year? Let's take a trip to China to experience firsthand their New Year's celebration and discover the answer to this question.

Customs and Cuisine During Chinese New Year

Let's take a trip to China to celebrate the Chinese New Year. On the way from the airport in China to our hotel, we can see the excitement and commotion in the surrounding neighborhoods as preparations are underway for the upcoming festivities. Zhang, our local tour guide, is waiting for us in the lobby of our hotel. The Chinese New Year begins tomorrow, and Zhang wants to give us some background information on the holiday and what to expect during our visit to observe the fifteen-day celebration. He explains that the Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, and the celebration begins on the day of the second new moon following the winter solstice. He instructs us on the traditions, superstitions and foods eaten to celebrate the New Year.

Chinese New Year Traditions

As we listen, we learn that there are many customs that are a vital part of this centuries-old festivity. Spending time with family, especially at a New Year's Eve dinner, is the top priority during this time. Chinese employers are required to give their employees days off so workers can have time to enjoy the fun. Married couples give red envelopes with money inside to children and elderly people. The sounds of firecrackers will be heard popping in the streets in the hope that the loud noise will scare away evil spirits. One of the highlights of the celebration is watching the dragon dance, where men dress up as a brightly-colored dragon that can be up to 100 feet long and perform complicated dances. Dragons have several different meanings for the Chinese people. The ancient kings considered themselves dragons because they were fierce, but also generous. The dragon also represents watchfulness, fertility, alertness, and mystic power. The end of the celebration on the fifteenth day is when the streets are illuminated with hundreds of paper lanterns. These are just a few of the many traditions that we will encounter.

Chinese Dragon Dance
Photo of Chinese Dragon Dance

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