Different part of China has very different traditions. The following are the most typical traditions.
New Year’s Eve Dinner
The New Year’s Eve dinner is the most important dinner for Chinese. Normally this is the family reunion dinner, especially for those with family member away from home. In the New Year’s Eve dinner, normally fish will be served. Dumplings are the most important dish in northern china. These two dishes mean prosperous. Other dishes are depending on personal preference. The majority of Chinese will have New Year’s Eve dinner at home instead of restaurant.
New Year Markets
At the New Years days, a temporarily market will be setup mainly selling New Year goods, such as chinese clothing, fireworks, decoration, foods, small arts, etc. The market is usually decorated with a large amount of lanterns.
Fireworks are used to drive away the evil in China. Right after the 12:00PM of the New Year’s Eve, fireworks will be launched to celebrate the coming of the New Year as well as driven away the evil. It is believed that the person who launched the first Fireworks in the New Year will get good luck.
Shou Sui means after the New Year’s Eve dinner, family member will normally stay awake during the night. Some people just stay until the mid night, after the fireworks. According to tales and legends, there was a mythical beast called the “Year”. At the night of New Year’s Eve, the “Year” will come out to harm people, animals, and proprieties. Later people found that the “Year” is afraid of red color, fire, and loud sound. Therefore, at the New Year’s Eve night, people will launch fireworks, put on some fires, and stay awakes the whole night to fend of the “Year”.
Red packet is a red envelope with money in it, range from one to a few thousand Chinese Yuan. Usually the red racket is given by adults, especially married couple, and elderly to young children in the New Year days. It was believed that the money in the red packet will suppress the evil from the children, keep the children healthy, and long living.
Small year is the 23th or 24th of the last month of the year. It is said that this is the day the food god will leave the family to go to the heaven to report the activity of family to the Emperor of the heaven. People will have some religious ceremony to farewell the food god, including take down and burn the paint of the food god. After the New Year’s Day, people will buy a new paint of the food god and post it at the kitchen.
A few days before the Chinese New Year, people will do a complete cleaning of the house and house ware; means get rid of the old and welcome the new. In old days when bath is not often, people will normally take a throughout bath to welcome the New Year.
After the cleaning, people will decorate the house to welcome the New Year. Most of the decorations are red in color. The most popular New Year home decorations are upside down fu, dui lian, lantern, year paint, papercutting, door god, etc.