CHINESE NEW YEAR TIMELINE
Chinese New Year is approaching and of course, you’re probably wondering what it means and if there are some taboos things you shouldn’t do and what are the things you should do… It can get pretty daunting and is THE #1 MOST IMPORTANT HOLIDAY for the Chinese. Think of it like Christmas for the Chinese people. Also, this will also be the time of year where they will get the longest amount of holidays so prepare and stock up ahead of time in terms of food and supplies as the first 3 days of Chinese New Year are holidays in Hong Kong! We’ve made a timeline for easy reference.
WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO DO EACH DAY?
Chinese people are very auspicious and therefore, make sure you look through the timeline to understand what’s happening on each day. Here’s a quick timeline to illustrate with more detailed information after.
PRE CHINESE NEW YEAR
LUNAR DECEMBER 28TH 年廿八洗邋遢
Clean, clean and more cleaning. Think of it as Spring cleaning but taken 100 times more seriously. You also want to cross the Chinese New Year with new clothes and shoes, preferably in the colour red as it’s an auspicious colour; therefore, make sure you’ve chosen and bought your new Chinese New Year outfit at this point. People will also get their nails painted (red usually) and hair cut in preparation of the Chinese New Year. All these preparations are to show that it will be a bountiful and fortuitous new year with new clothes, new clean house, new haircut, new outlook, etc. (you get the point). Please note that your nail artist or hair salon may actually increase the price of service a month in advance because this is their high demand season. That being said, make sure to book well in advance.
Also, people will prepare their lucky money packets in advance – making sure they get new money from the bank and ensuring they get enough money for all the lucky money packets they need to give out. Depending on your relationship with each individual you encounter, you will either receive a lucky money packet or give one out. If you’re interested to know if you have to give or receive, please visit our post on the lucky money complexity here.
LUNAR DECEMBER 30 (CHINESE NEW YEAR’S EVE) 年三十晚
Yes, in the lunar calendar, December 30 is Chinese New Year’s Eve as there is no December 31 because the lunar calendar is based on the moon movements and it was calculated as 30 days. In Hong Kong, either you get the day off, or you get off early, anywhere from half day to 2 hours earlier than your regular workday ending time. People get off earlier because they need to prep, buy groceries, and cook for that night’s feast. The whole family will gather around to get a huge bountiful feast to signify that they will have a bountiful year next year. Here’s my feast:
Most things on the table will have an auspicious meaning. Fish (魚) sounds like “bountiful (餘)”; shrimp (鰕) sounds like “hah (哈)” as in smile and laughter; the egg pockets are golden in colour which is symbolic of good fortune and gold; chicken symbolizes the abundance of meat and food that the family has, etc. Most families will finish the meal off with glutinous rice dumplings (湯圓) because they symbolize the family being wholesome and together – 團圓 (tuan yuan).
After the big dinner, the family may choose to walk around the Chinese New Year Flower Markets because they will be closing after tonight and will do their hardest to slash the prices of the flowers so you can go to join in the atmosphere and buy some discounted Chinese New Year flowers. Be warned that it will be horrendously crowded – very atmospheric – but VERY crowded. You will literally shift with the crowd and not be able to move at your own free will if you go to the Victoria Park Chinese New Year Flower Market in Causeway Bay. We have made a guide to all the lucky flowers you can find at the Chinese New Year Flower Market here. Traditionally, people used to set off firecrackers today because the loud noises will scare off the Nian, which is a mythical mean creature.
Some others will go straight to the temple because they will to be the first ones to be able to worship the gods by giving them incense. In Hong Kong, the temple that is most common and popular with huge queues of people hoping to get the “first incense” 頭柱香 will be at Wong Tai Sin temple. In Hong Kong, the MTR will run throughout the entire night.
CHINESE NEW YEAR
LUNAR JANUARY 1, GREETINGS 正月初一 拜年
Most people will wake up a bit late due to the late night festivities from the night before and they will don their new clothes today as this is officially the first day of the Chinese New Year. This is the first day where people will “bai nian (拜年)” which is to greet each other with auspicious greetings. If you want to learn the most popular greetings, please visit our post on Chinese New Year’s 21 most popular greetings here. It is said that the wife will not visit her family today as it is not an auspicious sign. People are very jolly and happy this day (yay!).
In addition, today is like Christmas Day and none of the neighbour restaurants or shops will be opened – people would have shopped and stocked up prior to today. In Hong Kong Lunar January 1-3 are public holidays and the corporate 9-6 workers will go back to work on Lunar January 4; whilst most shops will go back to work on Lunar January 5; though some small businesses and neighbourhood stores don’t open until after Lunar January 7/8.
There are things that you cannot do starting today as they are considered bad luck and taboo. You cannot clean or throw away anything as it symbolizes sweeping or throwing away your good luck for the new year. Some people will also not wash their hair on this day either as it washes away your good luck; some taking it one step further by refraining to wash their hair until Lunar January 5! Do not cut anything and try not to break anything. If something does break, you have to say this auspicious greeting, “落地開花，富貴榮華“ which is similar in meaning to, whatever you break is like flowers blossoming and blossoming flowers symbolize good fortune. Be careful of your words as well – do not bring up anything that is negative, such as death, etc.
LUNAR JANUARY 2, GREETINGS 正月初二 , 迎婿日
Today is the day where the wife with her husband and children (if any) will go back to her family’s house to “bai nian” and give lucky money to the children in the morning. Never go back empty-handed; therefore, the gifts brought back will usually have auspicious meaning. For the most 4 popular gift ideas for Chinese New Year, please click here. Traditionally, after lunch and by early afternoon, the family will then leave the wife’s maiden home to make it back in time for dinner at the husband’s family’s home.
LUNAR JANUARY 3, TIME TO BE ALONE 正月初三, 赤口
People do not go to other people’s homes today to “bai nian”. Today is seen as the day where people will quarrel easily with others after the exhausting activities from the previous days. Today, some people may go visit their ancestral graves, others may go to the temple whilst some others may just stay at home to relax.
LUNAR JANUARY 4, GO BACK TO WORK 正月初四, 開工大吉
Time to go back to work today! Please note that in 2017, as Lunar January 2 falls on Sunday, which is a designated rest day; therefore, Lunar January 4 has also been designed as a public holiday in Hong Kong to make up for Lunar January 2.
Today, lion dances will be all the rage – giving good luck and fortune to the businesses for the new year. The lions will eat heads of lettuce (生菜), because lettuce sounds like “choy (財) “, which is fortune. It is also popular to eat a group lunch (開工飯) today with your team as it literally means “start work meal” to kick off the new year.
LUNAR JANUARY 5, GOD OF WEALTH’S BIRTHDAY 正月初五, 迎財神
Today is finally the day you can start cleaning again! In fact, today is the God of Wealth (財神)’s birthday and we want to welcome him in fashion. This is the day to clean again, to take out the trash, sweep the floors, and to chase away any poverty to welcome the God of Wealth.
LUNAR JANUARY 7, HUMAN DAY 正月初七, 人日
In accordance to Chinese legends, it was Nuwa who created earth and it was on the 7th day that she created humans; therefore, it’s everyone’s birthday today. Traditionally, there are different specific dishes that are created and eaten on this day and it is popular to eat only vegetarian on this day.
LUNAR JANUARY 15, CHINESE VALENTINE’S DAY 正月初十五,元宵节
Today is officially the last day of celebrations for the Chinese New Year; therefore, after today, you will stop giving or receiving lucky money packets. To mark this day, there is a Lantern festival and it is also the first day of the first full moon night of the Chinese New Year, which symbolizes the reunion of the family and reminds us that Spring is coming.
It is called Chinese Valentine’s Day because couples come together to spend time and to look at all the lit lanterns in the Lantern Festivities. On the lanterns, there will be riddles and if you can solve the riddle, you are then giving a prize. Traditionally, they said that the women would write the riddles on the lanterns and the men that could answer their riddles were then matched with them… Romantic indeed.
That’s it! We shall see you next Chinese New Year and each year the repertoire of Chinese New Year material will be updated and expanded. Hope you give and received lots of lucky money and that everybody will have a healthy and prosperous year! If you’re interested in learning more HK culture & you’re visiting Hong Kong, take our Free Central Walk and join our Guided Dimsum Lunches. More detailed information can be found here: humidwithachanceoffishballs.com