7 Popular Customs That Mark the Chinese New Year

7 Popular Customs That Mark the Chinese New Year
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The Year of the Tiger according to the Chinese Zodiac Calendar begins on February 1 this year

OT Staff
February 01 , 2022
07 Min Read

As February 1 dawns this year, Chinese people across the world will be ready to ring in their Lunar New Year with fanfare albeit with an eye on the pandemic situation. In fact, preparations for the New Year begin towards the end of the previous year. On the 26th day of the last lunar month of the previous year, special cakes and puddings are made. On the 28th day, the house is thoroughly cleaned.

Many of us are aware of the lion and dragon dances held during the Chinese New Year (CNY). But the traditional celebration, which lasts for 15 days, is marked by many customs and rituals. The main idea behind these customs is to drive out everything evil and usher in good luck and prosperity.


Here are some of the popular customs and beliefs associated with Chinese New Year.

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The Year of the Tiger

Each year of the traditional Chinese calendar is assigned a particular animal. According to a popular legend, the Jade Emperor - one of the most important gods in traditional Chinese religion – had invited all the animals in the world to take part in a race. Among all the animals, the pig, dog, rooster, monkey, sheep, horse, snake, dragon, rabbit, tiger, ox and rat turned up on the appointed day. The emperor decided to name a year after each animal; the order in which they finished the race decided the order in which the animals would appear in the 12 year cycle. The character of each animal is said to be the ruling feature of the particular year it signifies. Last year (which ends on January 31 this year) was the Year of the Ox. The New Year starting from February 1 this year is the Year of the Tiger (also Year of the Water Tiger).  Chinese culture, including art, fashion and pop culture set great store by the tiger, an animal known for its strength, bravery and ability to drive away all kinds of evil manifestations.

The Colour Red

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Red is the predominant colour seen during the CNY as it signifies good luck. Display of red colour is said to drive away evil spirits and misfortune. It is also the colour of celebration. According to a legend, an evil beast called Nian would visit villages on New Year’s Day and feast on people, crops and livestock. One day, the villagers that Nian was afraid of the red colour. Hence people don red coloured attire, decorate homes and neighbourhoods with red lanterns, banners, and paper, etc. Young people receive a token monetary gift in red envelopes. Fiery red is said to be one of the lucky colours especially in the Year of the Tiger.

Family and feast

The New Year is the time for families to get together. Hence Chinese people who stay away from family make it a point to return to their family homes during this period. Hence, if you are travelling in China or south-east Asia, be prepared to face crowded flights and traffic jams. Elaborate feasts are held with all the family members present. Usually the family reunion and feasting takes place on New Year’s Eve. Over the years, dining out with families and friends has also become popular. The Chinese people believe that on the third day, one may get involved in arguments and start the year on a wrong foot. Hence, most people usually visit temples on this day to avoid such pitfalls.


One of the key foods prepared during the New Year is dumplings, which many believe are a symbol of prosperity and wealth. Many believe dumplings represent gold or silver ingots. It is customary to make the dumplings at home with family members pitching in, and then have a dumpling meal together.

Other popular CNY food include noodles (symbolising long life), rice cakes (long life), whole steamed fish (abundance), sticky rice balls (for togetherness), etc.

Bursting Firecrackers

The tradition of bursting fire crackers is also associated with the legend of Nian, who is said to be terrified of fire crackers. Usually, people burst firecrackers between midnight of the New Year’s Eve and the dawning of the New Year. 

No Washing

The Chinese people are careful to avoid washing in any manner on New Year’s Day lest they wash away the good luck which they were blessed with during midnight on New Year’s Eve. They will not only avoid washing clothes and utensils or taking a bath but also avoid putting out garbage or cleaning the bins.

Lantern Festival

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The Lantern Festival marks the end of the 15 day celebration. It also marks the ending of the customs which are followed during this period to avoid misfortune and usher in good luck. An indication for the people to get back to their regular routine. While traditionally lanterns are red in colour, artistically designed lanterns and illuminations are also in vogue. Lantern Fairs are held in many cities in China.

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