The Lunar New Year is Asia's largest holiday. While all regions of China celebrate the Chinese (Lunar) New Year, each area is unique and will have it's own customs and twists on traditions. I've chosen three traditions that are pretty much the same (according to my Chinese husband) all over China.
1. Making Dumplings On the eve of the Chinese New Year, family members spend time together making meat filled dumplings called 'jiao zi' or filled steamed buns called 'bao zi'. They will spend hours making these by hand, often having to remake them if mom says that they are imperfect! These foods will not be cooked or eaten until after midnight when the new year arrives. There will be far more dumplings than can realistically be eaten so that the family may always have enough to eat throughout the new year. Dumplings or steamed bread won't be the only food eaten though. Mom will cook up a huge feast of meats and vegetables for this special day. Maybe a sweet porridge or date filled steamed breads will also be made.
2. Family Gatherings It is a custom of the Chinese New Year for couples and their children to return to the home of the husband (father) for the New Years festivities. Only on the third day, for a short period, may they go to the wife's (mother's) parent's home. It is because once married, women are said to be "outsiders". Legend has it that the deceased ancestors will return during the Chinese New Year and would be offended if any "outsiders" were present during such a special time. My sister-in-law practices this as her parents and in-laws live in the same city as her, so it is easy for her to go back for this one meal on the third day. For those who are far from family, they will go to the husband's family home.
3. Red Envelopes Bright red envelopes with golden Chinese characters are given to children during the Chinese New Year as a gift. Parents, grandparent, aunts, uncles and friends buy special envelopes and fill them with money (often between 100 and 1000 yuan or $15-120+). Children do not have to send the customary "thank you notes" that western children send out, but parents are expected to remember which person gave their child money and exactly how much so that next year, they can give back that amount. Children are allowed to spend some of the money as pocket money, buying toys and snacks, but parents are usually pretty strict about putting most of the money in the bank to save for their future education.
About the Author
I'm an English teacher in China and has spent the last six years living in a
small town teaching English. You visit my lens about the
Chinese New Year and find out where to get
Chinese Party Supplies for your Chinese New Year's party