Chinese Lunar New Year (春節/春节) - The Year Of The Rooster

Chinese New Year for 2017 will be celebrated on the 28th January and is the most important festival in the traditional Chinese calendar.  Being 6000 miles away from Hong Kong meant that my folks placed even more emphasis on traditional festivities such as Chinese new year which have always been a big part of my upbringing.  

The focus on family, good food and hopes for good health and fortune for the year ahead remains relevant to all cultures and not just for the Chinese.  In this blogpost, I want to share a little about what Chinese New Year means to me and introduce some of the traditions that are still carried out to this day.

Fast Facts About Chinese New Year

  • The Chinese New Year is based on the cycles of the moon and which is why Chinese New Year is also called the Lunar New Year.  This means that the exact date of Chinese New Year changes when referring to it by the date according to the solar calendar.  This year, Chinese New Year will be celebrated on the 28th January.
  • Each year in the Chinese calendar is represented by an animal from the Chinese zodiac.  This year will be the year of the Rooster.   
  • Chinese New Year isn’t a one day event and is instead celebrated over a period of 15 days, ending on the full moon.
  • During Chinese New Year people traditionally spend time with their family and travel to visit relatives and friends.  The new year is a very sociable time of the year where the social bonds are strengthened.
  • Food is a central part of the Chinese social scene and several traditional "lucky" and healthy dishes are served or given as gifts during the new year.
  • There are several traditions aimed at keeping away bad luck and encouraging good luck.  One of these is the practice of not cutting your hair during the new year festivities as this symbolises cutting away good fortune.  Another tradition is setting off fire-crackers to chase away bad spirits that may bring bad luck.
  • Children receive "lucky money" in red packets at Chinese New Year.  Sometimes they are also given new clothes to wear which are red - the colour of good fortune.

Spending Time With Family & Friends

Visiting friends and family is one of the fondest memories I have of Chinese New Year.  There was lots of fuss, lots of visitors and lots of laughing!  We would dress in our best clothes (red where possible of course!), get snacks ready for visitors, help mum stir the New Year cake mixture and visit our closest family and friends over the 2 weeks of celebrations.  

My immediate family is now spread across the UK and in many ways, this has made Chinese New Year an even more important time for us to prioritise seeing each other.  What better excuse to put our digital devices down than bringing in the Chinese New Year with our nearest and dearest over a hearty meal!  

Food, The Central Pillar Of Chinese Community

No Chinese celebration would be complete without a good feast and the best feasts of the Chinese calendar take place during Chinese New Year.   Those who know me will know that food is something extremely dear to me as a great source of happiness but also as a great source of health.  Chinese New Year is a time for cooking extra special dishes and for sharing food amongst the community.   Some snacks and dishes are chosen especially to be eaten during Chinese New Year because they each have their own meaning for the year ahead.  Here are just a small list of some of the common ones:

Traditional Chinese New Year Food 

  • Fish - Representing prosperity.
  • Chinese dumplings - Representing wealth.
  • Sweet rice dumplings - Representing reunion and the family.
  • Noodles - Representing longevity of life and happiness.
  • Fruit (Orange, Pomelo, Tangerine, Persimmon) - Representing luck and fullness. 

Traditional Chinese New Year Snacks

  • Red dates - Representing wealth and prosperity.
  • Peanuts - Representing vitality and longevity.
  • Dried longan fruit - Representing reunion.
  • Sunflower seeds - Representing children and fertility.
  • Steamed new year cake- Representing happiness in life.
  • Glutinous rice dumplings - Representing prosperity.

Wishing You A Happy, Prosperous & Healthy Chinese New Year

For anyone wishing to join in on Chinese New Year celebrations in London this year, do check out the details in Time Out.  Watford Chinese Association will also be hosting a Chinese New Year film event at the Watford Palace Theatre by showing Disney's Mulan and which will include food and activities too.     

I hope you enjoy the hubbub that will be happening around Chinese New Year, and I wish you all a very happy, prosperous and healthy Chinese New Year of the Rooster!

Posted by Lily Lai.