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Customs and Traditions of Chinese New Year

February 11, 2010

Many interesting and peculiar customs and traditions are an intrinsic part of celebration of the most important festival of the Chinese namely, the Chinese New Year. It is by far an occasion to unite with one’s family and dear ones and jubilate in the spirit of togetherness reminiscing and sharing the good old memories of the past year. As the atmosphere is dyed in the festive hue of the season, the color red rules supreme.

People are garbed in red clothes, children carry money in red envelopes, even lanterns hung for the purpose of decoration are red in color. It is so because it is commonly believed that red symbolizes fire which according to legend can fend off bad luck. Bright red is considered to be an auspicious color and stands for happiness while gold stands for wealth. The colors black and white are avoided during this time as they represent mourning.

There are particular flowers and fruits which are also strongly associated with the celebration of Chinese New Year as each of them radiate their good influence in the life of the people. The Spring Festival that begins one week before the arrival of Chinese New Year will start on 11th of February, 2007. On the occasion of this festival, there is the practice of offering sacrifice to the Kitchen God (Zaowang) who is considered to be the guardian of the family hearth. He is the God sent from heaven to take charge of family affairs and who prepares a report on the past deeds of the family to report the same to Heaven and thus needs to be kept in good humor. The sacrifice to this Kitchen God consists of a lotus root-like sticky cake made of a kind of confection, a typical Chinese traditional candy.

The practice of using this sticky cake called Nian Gao is to make sure that it serves the dual purpose of appeasing the appetite of the Kitchen God as well as sticking his mouth so as to prevent him from speaking ill about the family. This tradition is not so much in vogue in the cities, though it is still in rage in some areas of the countryside. Every traditional Chinese home also has the custom of keeping live blooming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth. There is also the tradition of welcoming guests with sweet treats and that has led to the evolution of serving a circular tray of colorful candies which is compartmentalized into eight slots to display the same. This “Tray of Togetherness” (Cheun Hup) ensures that all witness a sweet beginning. Another significant custom associated with New Year celebration is to spend the New Year’s Eve preparing Chinese dumplings (Jiaozi).

Sometimes even a coin is hid inside the dumpling and whoever gets it is supposedly presumed to enjoy the grace of luck in the coming years. Even a traditional Buddhist vegetarian delight called “Jai” is prepared on the first day of Chinese New Year using eighteen different ingredients as the Chinese believe eighteen to be a lucky number signifying wealth and prosperity. Many interesting and peculiar customs and traditions are an intrinsic part of celebration of the most important festival of the Chinese namely, the Chinese New Year.

In the new year there is now a regular on the popular modern society do traditionally red packets are also handed out to younger generation by their parents, grand parents, relatives, and even close neighbors and friends during Imlek. Nowadays giving red packets as a bonus at the year-end by employers becomes popular and Imlek parcel is also a tradition of giving to business associates or relatives.

Giving Imlek parcel to employees prior to the New Year is also a good idea. This can be either a gift or a bonus. If it is as a gift, the money should be just right for a gift. If as a bonus, you may enclose a check in the parcel gift and hand it out in an office.

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