Chinese New Year Traditions In The Modern Age

The Chinese New Year is a fantastical celebration full of rich, vibrant culture and traditions. This celebration is also known as the Spring Festival, and remains the most important social and economic holiday in Chinese culture. It is a fifteen day celebration filled with food, family, and ancient traditions like; decorations, and spiritual cleansing. The attention of every member of the household is fixed on the preparation and celebration of the New Year.

There are numerous ancient traditions that the Chinese complete, in order to prepare for the New Year. One of the first traditions I came across in my research was the preparation of ones self. During this time of year there is a tendency to want to tie up loose ends in their personal and professional lives. People and businesses will pay off or collect debt before the New Year, this is in an attempt to secure a year filled with prosperity. People will participate in spiritual cleansing, by seeking out old relationships with loved ones that may have gone astray during the year. Getting rid of toxic people and energy is also a common preparatory tradition among the Chinese poeple who want to have an auspicious New Year.

Another tradition that is completed in preparation for the New Year is cleaning the family home. It is common practice to clean the house top to bottom, but leave the sweeping for the twenty third or twenty fourth, because that is when the Kitchen God is scheduled to depart. The Kitchen God will carry a report of the condition of the house up to heaven to the Jade Emperor. In hopes of not offending the Kitchen God, families will wait to move large, dusty pieces of furniture until after he has left, to avoid spewing dust everywhere and upsetting the him. After the we move into the New Year households are commonly left upswept for a few days, out of fear of sweeping good fortune out of the home.

Food ways are arguably the largest, and most complicated tradition surrounding the Chinese New Year. The Chinese belief system dictates what is eaten during specific days of this celebration.For example on New Years day only vegetarian foods are prepared. This practice is thought to cleanse the mind, body, and soul. This meal commonly consists of tofu, mushrooms, and bean curds. Additional vegetables like carrots and snow peas are included in the dishes to enhance the color.

The Reunion Dinner, which is served on the eve of the New Year, is the most important meal in the whole fifteen day celebration. The food served during this dinner has enormous symbolic meaning, it is believed that in order to have an auspicious New Year, the right foods need to be consumed. Family is at the forefront of importance in Chinese culture, but especially during the Reunion Dinner. In my research I found that the dinner will only commence when every family member is present and the last remaining member of the household is announced. Different families will prepare the dishes for this dinner in different ways, but there are some staple dishes. Chicken soup, stir-fried vegetables, roasted pork, and a whole fish, will more than likely be found at any Reunion Dinner. Foods like; mandarin oranges, long, uncut noodles, dumplings, and radish cake, are all foods that hold symbolic meaning but are not always consumed at the Reunion Dinner, but at other times during the celebration.

Gods, deities, and ancestors play a pivotal role in the New Year celebration. Food, wine, and money are left on the graves of ancestors. These offerings are to show ancestors the family is still faithful and has not neglected their duties to their ancestors. Sweet cakes and other decadent foods are prepared for the Kitchen God and offered, in hopes of getting a favorable report. Door Gods are also beings that see, and hear, everything that happens in the household throughout the year, and this information is believed to be brought up to the Jade Emperor. Gods, deities, and ancestors play an extremely important role in the New Year celebration, but they also play a large role in the daily lives of the Chinese society.

The most interesting concept I came across in my research, is the modernization of ancient Chinese New Year traditions. Since technology has become such an integral part of our modern society, it only makes sense there would start to be a shift towards more modern forms of ancient traditions. Red packets an ancient tradition that are often filled with money and given out as gifts. The purpose of the Red Packets are to bring you good luck in the New Year. In the last few years a popular Chinese messaging called WeChat has made this tradition available online. People can now send money in virtual red packets, putting a modern twist on an ancient tradition.

No matter how our world may change to keep up with our ever changing society, the meanings of the traditions and celebrations are still the same. The Chinese New Year is a time for family and friends to nurture there relationships, and ensure they have a prosperous New Year.


14 thoughts on “Chinese New Year Traditions In The Modern Age

  1. Muqtasid Moseley

    I really that your project focus on the traditions during the Chinese new years. You talk about the traditions in depth and not just say what they. Just like in my project I talk about the Hui Muslims in China so people can feel like their there with the people. Your project teaches something new about Chinese new year and the culture that it brings to the people. My project is to help people learn about new about China and the people that leave there and I feel like your project will do the same.

  2. Morgan Blanchard

    My topic is the North-South divide in Italy, focusing on economic, political, and cultural divides that have resulted due to over 150 years of economic division after the Italian unification in 1871. In comparison to China, I think the concept of Chinese New Year is a great way to unify all areas of China, especially since the population is well over a billion at this point. Italy, on the other hand, only has roughly 60 million people, the majority of the population residing in northern regions. Although the culture is generally the same throughout the country, the food, music, industries, and social norms vary from region to region, and this affects the economic success of northern vs. southern Italy. As you mention that the Chinese New Year is an important time for family and friends regardless of how modern society changes, Italy is struggling to keep a grasp on their old traditions ad culture while dipping their toes into modernization.

  3. Hari Luitel

    I really like that you went on the depth on some important preparations before the Chinese New Year. I found the concept of Kitchen God amazing. You mention here that kitchen God will carry a report of the condition of the house up to heaven to the Jade Emperor. It is nice to know that cleaning the family home is part of the preparation of the New Year. I know that not every culture see cleaning their homes as preparations for New Year. In future, I hope to go China and celebrate their New Year. It sounds fun and exciting.

  4. Hari Luitel

    In my Istanbul class, we did not specifically learn about Turkish New Year but my group did a presentation on hammams. Hammams are known as the Turkish bath. This is a place where mostly women would go and take bath. In early 1400’s not every household could afford to have bath in their own homes so therefore few hammams were built throughout country. Nowadays, hammams are more for relaxing, socializing and celebrating.

  5. Albert Sebastian

    My topic was about Education across the entire EU. The EU has so many different places with so many different cultures and traditions. Your article made me curious as to how these are being addressed in schools. The different European countries all handle these kinds of topics differently. Are children being taught about these old beliefs and traditions? In many different more modern cultures these kinds of things would be absent from schools and I’m curious where china falls on that scale.

  6. Kayla Arena

    This idea of a “Modern Chinese New Year” is really interesting! I have never heard about WeChat, which allows for sending virtual money. It is fascinating to think about a thousand-year old tradition, suddenly transitioning to integrating technology and changing how people interact with each other. This reminds me of my Life in the Amazon class, when we learned about how some indigenous communities in Peru have began to integrate technology such as computers and TVs. Other indigenous tribes are more apprehensive about introducing technology into their culture and communities because of the fear of losing their way of life and moral values. It is intriguing to think about the morals that one’s culture holds and what deems as useful vs. harmful.

  7. Kylen Veilleux

    I loved reading this! So interesting to learn about all these traditions. I think all I knew before was something I learned from a cartoon but I can see that this is a very ceremonious traditions. They reminded me a lot of something I read in my class about the Amazon about Shaman and all the work they put into their ceremonies and how they connected them to the god and it was accepted all through their communities much like your described here. I think we could all benefit from something like this for getting in touch with loved ones who have gone astray. Sometimes we get so busy with day to day life we lose track of the people that mean the most to us. Great work!

  8. Ingrid French

    The tradition of the Chinese New Year has many connections to the tradition of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, that I learned about in my Jordan’s Cultural Mosaic course. While individual muslims only need to carry out this tradition once in their lifetime, it is something that happens every year in the last month of the Islamic calendar, bringing an end to the current year instead of celebrating a new one. Both of these festivals involve religious beliefs and traditions and are very important to the people of these communities. While religions and practices may be different, and both cultures have changed over time these are the practices that remain continuous for these communities.

  9. Devin Phaek

    Great read Hannah! I was certainly intrigued on the sub-topic of spiritual cleansing of oneself before celebrating the aforementioned ritual. I believe engaging in a salient celebration with an empty mind is crucial and necessary. This highly relates to the religion of Buddhism we discussed in class. One accessing their spiritual mind is the key point of Buddhism, and this is achieved by the practice of meditation. Their essential focus is to maintain enlightenment and to reach nirvana just by one being in their solitude. It was interesting to read and correlate the cultural celebration with the religious practice we have studied.

  10. Taylor Jordan

    I loved reading about your perspectives and research found on the Chinese New Year because I also researched the same thing. It was interesting to see which topics, areas, and traditions you chose to focus in on in comparison to the ones I chose. I’m assuming we found a few of the same sources because it seems that a bit of your information coincides with mine. To start, I noticed that you chose to focus one of your main traditions on the cleaning, which I also did because of its significance and symbolism for the cleansing and preparation for the New Year. You talked about the food and how important of a role it plays, but I did not find a lot of information on that, so I am interested to see what source you found for that. Lastly, I liked the spin you put on the research you found on Red Packets and the aspect of modernization. This triggered me to think about what other modern twists have been made in the recent years on the other traditions we both covered.

  11. Taylor Melanson

    This was a great read Hannah! The most interesting thing I took away from this was your discussion on how technology is changing the old traditions of the Chinese New Year. I related this to my topic, Traditional Chinese Medicine and how it is being used in the US. My concern within both of our topics is that with the changing of traditions, does the value of the actual event drop? For me, when TCM is brought to the US, the knowledge doesn’t always follow, so the correct methods may not be practiced. I wonder if that is the same with moving more technological for the Chinese New Year.

  12. John Tyner

    Great piece on Chinese New Year! I never knew how important this tradition really was to the Chinese culture. It seems as if many of these practices involve lots of food and family. This is not uncommon around the world.
    As you may know, the Santeria faith also requires serious preparation when it comes to food offerings. Each different orisha has a particular style and taste that must be considered in every meal. No matter the recipe, all of these preparations are left on altars as offerings for the Santeria deities. If you are interested in more recipes and how the offerings are typically made, this is a great site for reference:
    Lastly, I like how you wrapped up your entry by mentioning that as society changes, these deep family traditions often root people to their identity and bring family together no matter what is going on in the world. Similarly to Santeria, the initiation of a new priest in the faith requires important members of the community and family members come together to celebrate their faith. These types of traditions that bring people together are very important in society, and it is interesting to see how these traditions and rituals differ around the globe.

  13. Emileigh Durrell

    Hi Hannah!
    I liked this piece on Chinese New Year Traditions. Especially when you wrote about how the Gods, deities, and ancestors play a role in the celebration. In my class, Shaking the Spirit, we learned a lot about vodou and about altars and how people left offerings to the lwa on their altars, similar to how food, wine, and money are left on the graves of the ancestors. When leaving things for the lwa on their altars, or when celebrating the lwa, it’s all about getting that favorable report, which is similar to your traditions that you wrote about. I found it very interesting that there’s a Kitchen God, because I’ve never heard of that before but I’m intrigued to learn more about it. Also, you mention how the ancestors play a large role in the daily lives of the Chinese, which is the same for the lwa and those living in Haiti that are a part of vodou. The lwa are a part of their every day lives, not just during a celebration or a large event. While vodou is a religious and you wrote about Chinese culture, I still find the two very similar in some regards! This was a fascinating piece to read!

  14. Scott Rainville

    I notice similarity in the third-to-last paragraph to my writing on the Vodou offering to Bawon Samedi, the Vodou spirits of life and mostly death. This similarity is that people from these two cultures feel that it’s important to respect their deceased ancestors and pay respect to the gods. In Vodou, individuals will often give offerings and ceremonies to the lwa Gede for the services of bringing their ancestors into the afterlife. These offerings include food and drink, as do the offerings mentioned in your writing. And, like the culture around the Chinese New Year, the Vodou spirits are also present in the lives of the living by crossing over from the spirit world in a liminal state, as well as temporarily possessing individuals. These similarities show how it’s important across cultures to pay respects to one’s ancestors and the gods/spirits they believe in.


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