Chinese New Year Eve: Family dinner
At Chinese New Year’s Eve, families usually eat a special dinner together – and it will vary from region to region and family to family what they will eat. But one thing is sure, there will be fish on the table – because fish in Chinese means prosperous and harvest. It is a symbol of fortune and luck in the future year. During the evening, children will receive red envelopes with money and the families will close the front door, until they welcome the God of Fortune in the morning of Chinese New Year. This means, that the family members usually try to stay up to watch in the New Year – chatting, playing cards or Mahjong and just enjoying the time together.
Day 1: Burning firecrackers and visiting family
Officially beginning at the midnight, this day is to welcome the gods of heaven and earth. Traditionally, families will first set off some firecrackers before they go out according to the traditional customs. It is believed that the crackles of the firecrackers can drive out evil spirits. Besides, the red color of firecrackers also symbolizes good luck in traditional Chinese culture. But in Hong Kong, this usually just means that the flat is decorated with fake firecrackers – otherwise it would be way too dangerous! On this day, he most important thing for everyone to do is to visit the older and more senior members of their extended families, mostly their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on. Usually, people pay a visit to their houses in person.
Day 2: Visiting friends and relatives
On this day, shops, businessmen and even ordinary families will offer sacrifices (like a roasted pig!) to the God of Fortune who they welcomed in the Chinese New Year’s Eve. They hop the God of Fortune can give them a great fortune in the coming year. Also, this is the day to welcome sons-in-law. That is because on this day, married daughters will visit the parental home with their husband.
Day 3: Staying at home
Older people, who believe in superstition, will stay at home as this day is not a good day to socialise or visit relatives and friends, but nowadays more and more people take this day as a precious opportunity for family reunion.
Day 4: Worshiping gods
This is the day to welcome the kitchen god, the god of fortune and other gods. Families should stay at home to prepare abundant fruits, burn incense and light candles to welcome the gods. This is also the day that families can finally clean their house. They collect all the rubbish to one place and throw them all, which symbolise that they throw away all the bad luck and possible poverty of this year.
Day 5: Breaking of taboos
According to the traditional customs, it is believed that many taboos can be broken on this day, and hence many shops will return to normal on this day.
Day 6: Sending away the ghost of poverty
Usually, people will throw away their ragged clothes, rubbish and other dirty things. In addition, they will also light some candles to lighten the road for the ghost of poverty.
Day 7: Celebrating the day of human and eating noodles for a long life
On this day, people have different ways to celebrate the creation of human beings. One example is to eat noodles, because noodles symbolise longevity in Chinese culture.
Day 8: Celebrating the birthday of millet
According to the folk proverbs, if this day is bright and clear, then this whole year will be a harvest year; however, if this day is cloudy or even rainy, then the whole year will suffer from poor harvest.
Day 9: Birthday of Jade Emperor
There will be grand ceremonies in Taoist temples on this day and people will offer sacrifices to the Jade Emperor.
Day 10: Birthday of the god of stone
On this day, it is forbidden to move any stone, to cut into a mountain for rock and build a house with rocks, or bad things will happen.
Day 11: Fathers-in-law to entertain sons-in-law
The eleventh day of the Chinese New Year is for fathers-in-law to entertain sons-in-law.
Days 12-14: Preparing for the lantern festival
From this day, people will start to eat less rich and more healthy (after days of lots of eating) and they might start to make (or buy) lanterns. They might also visit a temple to appreciate lanterns (or go to the Lantern Display at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre).
Day 15: Lantern festival
The fifteenth and final day of the Chinese New Year marks the first full moon of the New Year and another reunion dinner is held with lanterns and oranges being a large part of the celebrations. It is customary to eat special sweet dumplings resembling the shape of the full moon. Lanterns are displayed, at times as lantern fairs, and children are carrying lanterns to temples.