Along with the exciting celebration of Chinese New Year, comes a long history of traditions designed to enrich its festivity. When it comes to the CNY customs, we got an endless list and each one holds significance not to be taken lightly. As a part of our Chinese identity, it’s always a good idea to preserve the Chinese traditions and make sure of its practice in our household.
From foods to knick-knacks and more, let’s take a look at some of the must-have household items during CNY and the meanings behind them. Once you understand them, you might want to hit the store and stock up!
Every household must have oranges and tangerines in anticipating the new year or for exchanging gifts. Not only symbolic for the sweetness for the year ahead, these fruits are also favored due to the Cantonese homophone kam which means gold. While in Mandarin, they are called juzi which also sounds like ji or luck. Coincidence? Maybe, but we love the juicy fruits nonetheless!
A Chinese New Year without pineapple tarts or cookies is just simply unthinkable! These yummy treats are one of the most popular and must always be present on the serving table for guests. The reason behind it lies on the Hokkian dialect ong lai, which literally translates to “ fortune come”. Needless to say, one just gotta have it for inviting good luck and fortune for the new year. Of course, we don’t mind since they taste so good, right?
The iconic red lantern with pretty tassels is an essential part of many Chinese celebrations, from the Chinese New Year to Spring Festival to Mid-Autumn Festival. Known as denglong in Chinese, lanterns will be hung in front areas of houses .This is not without any meaning, since they are believed to drive off bad luck. With its shining lights, lanterns also represent family reunion and best wishes for the coming year.
Pasted on both sides of a door, particularly the main entrance, New Year Couplets orb duìlián is a common sight during Chinese New Year. They can be in the form of red posters with Chinese calligraphy written on them, or the more popular Chinese zodiac depending of the year. This decoration represents good luck charm to drive away evil spirits. But in modern times, they’re just too cute to pass!
It is believed that wearing new clothes from head to toe to represent a fresh new start and hopes for the New Year. Since red is an auspicious color for the Chinese, it’s natural that everyone is dressed up in this bold shade to welcome the year. Nowadays though, people do not always have to choose red, but brightly-coloured clothes are still preferred to celebrate the festivities.
Legend has it that a mythical beast called Nian roamed the street on New Year’s Eve to terror families and children. To scare it away, firecrackers are used as a weapon of choice and keeping everyone safe from harm. Since not everyone loves to play with explosion, many families will decorate with flickering lights or strings of hongbaos ( red envelopes) as a symbol of charm.
Also known as a Tray of Togetherness, the Eight Treasures Box or ba bao he contains sweet treats offered to guests during CNY visit. This snack platter is shaped like an octagon with eight compartments each filled with food items. Each item carries its own symbolism, for example candies to represent the sweet year ahead, nuts means fertility, melon seeds for hope. Overall, we just love the many options to munch nonstop!
Popular plants for the Chinese New Year include Kumquat trees and flowering plants. Growing plants signify wealth, prosperity and also blessings. They also make a nice gift for relatives of business associates, sometimes tied with mini red envelopes or ribbons to make it look even more graceful.
Which of these items are always present during your Chinese New Year celebration? However you interpret the meaning behind each thing, just remember : it’s the spirit that counts. Happy Chinese New Year to all!
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