From clothing and underwear to lanterns and calligraphy - bright, vivid red is the color of choice for Chinese New Year. It’s used in abundance everywhere feasibly possible during new year preparations. Red is considered an auspicious, lucky color in Chinese culture no matter the occasion, but particularly so during Lunar New Year. Love of the color dates back to a centuries-old belief that evil spirits don’t like red. White and black are funeral colors, so avoid wearing them to Chinese New Year parties. Vivid red is the color of choice.
Lion and Dragon Dances
The lion dance, performed by two acrobats inside a single costume, is the more common of the two dance traditions seen at celebrations. The ferocious, four-legged creature is widely and incorrectly referred to as a “dragon" by Westerners who aren't familiar. Dragons look entirely different. Rather than two acrobats inside of a single costume, the dragons are long creatures lifted up on poles to be controlled by performers. The world record for the longest dragon in a dance is currently 18,390 feet.
Fireworks and Firecrackers
Firecrackers add to the cacophony of chaos on the first day of Chinese New Year. Other than just fun, the noise was meant to scare away malicious spirits, particularly the Nian. Because personal fireworks were banned for safety reasons in many places, local governments began organizing large fireworks shows to kick off the new year.
Known in Mandarin as hongbao, red envelopes containing money are often given from elders to children or unwed young adults. People with more seniority also sometimes use red envelopes to give gifts and bonuses to staff. Ordinarily, giving gratuity or money outright can cause a loss of face; it’s even offensive in some Asian cultures. Hongbao is a discreet way to gift people who are important to you.
As with other traditions during Chinese New Year, symbolism is key. The amount of money given should be an auspicious number. Even numbers are preferable. The amount to give is a subject of much debate.
What would a holiday season be without delicious dishes served for the occasion? Family members typically gather on New Year’s Eve for a traditional meal that encourages indulgence and symbolizes abundance. Foods are chosen for their lucky sounding names or auspicious shapes. A communal hotpot is also prepared in some regions. The sharing and cooking of food fuels an atmosphere of reuniting.
The most important Chinese New Year tradition of them all is to spend time with family and loved ones. As billions of people, especially migrant workers, return home over long distances to celebrate with the people they love, flights and rail service become booked up. After the holiday, people who live in cool climates seize the time away from work to go on vacation somewhere warmer.