Ridwan Meah / Chinese New Year celebrations, with a big dragon
Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is the most important traditional festival celebrated by Chinese people all around the world. The festival is typically celebrated at the turn of the Chinese lunar calendar, which falls between January 21st and February 20th each year. It marks the end of the coldest days of winter and the beginning of spring. It's a time to let go of the past and welcome the new year with hope and excitement. Chinese New Year is a time of reunion and celebration, filled with customs and traditions passed down through generations.
Here is our guide to the celebrations.
Chinese New Year and its significance
Maud Beauregard / Gold and Red decorations for Chinese New Year
The celebrations typically start with the cleaning of the homes, businesses, and streets as it is believed that cleaning up before the new year will sweep away any bad luck from the past year and make way for good fortune in the year to come. People usually decorate their homes with red lanterns, banners, and couplets, which are written in gold ink. These decorations are thought to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. During the festival, people visit family and friends, exchange gifts, and indulge in delicious food much as we do during Christmas or other holidays. Children and unmarried adults typically receive red envelopes filled with money, red being considered as a lucky colour in Chinese culture, and the money symbolises the hope for prosperity and wealth in the coming year.
Chinese New Year traditions
The event's significance is rooted in ancient Chinese customs and traditions. It is a time for families to come together and reflect on the past year, to express gratitude for blessings and forgiveness for any conflicts. It is also a time to honour ancestors and the gods, many people will prepare offerings, and make prayers for a prosperous new year. It is a time to welcome the New Year and ward off bad luck.
In some places there is a tradition where people will light firecrackers, to scare off the evil spirits and bring good luck, and greet the new year. One of the most popular Chinese New Year traditions is giving red envelopes, filled with money, to children and unmarried adults. Red is considered to be a lucky colour in Chinese culture, and they are also decorated with traditional Chinese symbols and characters, such as the Chinese symbol for good luck.
Mae Mu / The famous red envelopes, decorated ornately in gold
Traditionally, the money in red envelopes is given by older family members or relatives, and is usually given in an odd number, as even numbers are associated with funerals and death in Chinese culture. However, in recent years, the giving of red envelopes has become more informal, and can be given by friends and colleagues as well. It has also become more common to give red envelopes digitally, using mobile payment apps. This is increasingly popular among the younger generation and people living abroad, making it easier to send money to family members in China and living abroad.
The significance of gold to Chinese New Year
Ryan Moulton / A Golden Chinese Dragon statue in the water
Gold, a symbol of wealth and prosperity, is also an important element of Chinese New Year. The colour gold is associated with good luck and prosperity in Chinese culture, and is often used to decorate homes and offices during the festival. The gold-painted Chinese characters that are commonly used as decorations during Chinese New Year are typically written with auspicious phrases such as "good luck" and "happiness."
Gold is not only popular as decorations, but also commonly worn as a colour by people during Chinese New Year. Wearing gold jewellery is thought to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. People also tend to wear new clothes, new shoes and new jewellery on new year day. It’s a custom to wear new clothes in red to bring good luck.
Chinese New Year Gemstones
Gemstones associated with Chinese New Year are rubies and garnets. These precious stones are believed to symbolise wealth, prosperity, and good luck. They have been used for centuries in Chinese jewellery and other decorative items, such as pendants, bracelets, and rings.
Rubies, in particular, are considered to be a symbol of good luck and fortune. They are believed to bring the wearer success and prosperity, as well as protect them from negative energy. The deep red colour of rubies is also thought to ward off evil spirits.
Garnets are another gemstone that are associated with Chinese New Year. They are considered to be a protective stone, said to bring the wearer good health and safety. Garnets are typically red in colour, which further strengthens their association with Chinese New Year.
Pieces of jewellery that are linked to Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is a time of celebration and tradition, and traditional Chinese jewellery is an important part of this celebration. One of the most popular types of traditional Chinese New Year jewellery is gold jewellery.
Eric Fung / Golden Chinese jewellery
As mentioned previously, Gold is associated with the celebrations; and golden jewellery, such as gold earrings, pendants, bracelets, and necklaces, is often given as gifts during Chinese New Year. These pieces are often inscribed with traditional Chinese symbols, such as the Chinese symbol for longevity or good luck, to give them an extra layer of meaning.
Tahlia Doyle / Jade jewellery
Another popular type of traditional Chinese New Year jewellery is jade jewellery. Jade, also known as "yu" in Chinese, is a symbol of purity, grace, and elegance. Jade is considered to be a powerful talisman that protects the wearer from harm and brings good luck and prosperity. Jade jewellery, such as jade bracelets and necklaces, are often given as gifts during Chinese New Year, and are cherished as treasured family heirlooms.
Pearls are another traditional Chinese New Year jewellery. In China, pearls are considered to be symbols of purity, innocence, and elegance. Pearl jewellery, such as pearl necklaces and earrings, are often given as gifts during Chinese New Year and are cherished for their beauty and meaning.
Chinese New Year is a time of celebration and tradition, filled with symbolism and meaning. From the gold decorations and red envelopes, to the gemstones and jewellery, each element is thought to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. It is an occasion to celebrate the past and look forward to the future with hope, joy, and a renewed spirit.