Incorporate Chinese New Traditions into Your Home

It was a true challenge trying to get anything accomplished this past week in China. The entire country slipped into holiday mode in anticipation of the Chinese New Year, not to mention that travel was greatly waylaid due to the arrival of the first snowfall in 50 years! For most of China, the new year or Spring Festival celebration is the only holiday time that they receive all year long, so you can imagine how excited everyone is to get home to see their family and friends. For many folks, home is in the countryside, so there is a mass exodus from all of the big cities, such as Shanghai where I am. Work becomes secondary as everyone is focused on the holiday celebrations. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the spirit of the season.
 
My Chinese friends shared many of their traditions and superstitions about the holiday with me. I thought that it would be nice to share them with you so we might all enjoy some of their holiday traditions here at home.

How to welcome the year of the rat? First, you must start with a really clean house. The Chinese believe that your home must be cleaned thoroughly from top to bottom before the new year begins on the 7th. My friend Kevin recalled helping prepare his childhood home for the holidays with the mixed emotions of excitement and dread. He was always assigned the challenging task of removing, cleaning and then replacing all of the third-story windows on the house. He made countless trips lugging the windows up and down three flights of a very narrow staircase. Yes, this is serious spring-cleaning.

The good news is that it’s not all work, as you are not allowed to clean your home during the first week of the new year. By doing so it is believed that you might destroy or clean away the good chi or energy that the new year brings.

It’s also considered to be good luck to bring an orange or tangerine tree into the home. I put one of each of them on the kitchen countertops in the display home that I just completed. They look and smell great! The Chinese word for orange is very similar to the Chinese word for luck….hopefully my orange trees will bring the sales team good luck.
 
On the 7th, the first day of the new year, you must wear new clothes. This is to ensure a prosperous year for you and your family. Red, the colour of prosperity, is believed to be the best choice for your New Year’s Day outfit. I like this idea….what will I wear Thursday? It is also a tradition to hand out red paper envelopes called Lai-See, filled with crisp new money, to the children. This is a sign of your success and will ensure continued success during the year.
 
Food is an important component of Chinese culture. For New Year’s dinner it is important to serve a whole fish. This represents togetherness and abundance. It is also imperative that you have leftovers and that these are enjoyed on the next day to ensure that the abundance felt today will continue throughout the year. New Year’s Day is spent at home with immediate family, but after the second day, you are to go out or invite in your many friends.

Never use a knife or scissors on New Year’s Day for fear that you may be cutting off your good fortune. Every emotion and action experienced on this day is what you can expect plenty of for the coming year. For example, if you cry on New Year’s, you can expect to cry all year. So ensure that you stay positive and elated. Think nice thoughts and don’t say any cross words to anyone.
 
When you greet friends and family, clasp your hands in a prayer or ball shape and wish them Gong Xi Fa Zhai (to your health and great success). Have some fun with the Chinese New Year and partake in the celebrations. Gong Xi Fa Zhai!

Credit: Cheryll Gillespie

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Published in: on March 29, 2010 at 7:28 pm  Comments (33)  

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