[Chinese Culture] What we do on Chinese New Year in Taiwan/ Traditions
Happy Chinese New Year!恭喜發財( (gōng xǐ fā cái) )
Chinese New Year 2023: 22nd of January
If you have been to Taiwan (or some other Asian countries) during this time, you will find the country overwhelmed by RED! While according to our tradition Red to us means Joy, Excitement, happiness…everything Positive.
(🤫Just another insiders secret: we wear red panties to win money when we are going to gamble:3)
Essential Phrase for Chinese New year:
恭喜發財(gōng xǐ fā cái)
Before knowing all the traditions about the Chinese new year, let me tell you the most important phrase for Chinese New Year, which sounds very Chinese😝:
恭喜發財(gōng xǐ fā cái) = Wish you prosperity/ Wish you rich😂
There was a Japanese who came to Taiwan during the Chinese New year and he was shocked that we are mentioning money all the time in Chinese new year, to whomever, whenever😂
That’s just a very common phrase we say to whomever we meet during the Chinese new year.
Chinese New Year is like European Christmas, it is the time when all family members gather together and have a nice big meal on New Year’s Eve. Moreover, during Christmas time every corner will be accompanied by Christmas songs, guess what, it is the same for Chinese New Year. The thing different is: the “Chinese New Year” music will be played only in stores and shops but not in households.
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Before celebrating the most important holiday with us, there are some traditions and rules that we still do nowadays which you might be interested to find out.
Chinese New year Traditions
The preparation for Chinese New Year
1. Massive Cleaning
When CNY is about to come, except for the joy because of the upcoming food and red envelopes, to be honest, there is also a tiny part in me filled with fear for the upcoming massive Cleaning. I’m not saying this because I’m lazy(ok, maybe a little), but because it really means MASSIVE. In my family we will clean every corner, every cupboard, every part of the refrigerator, every…and to be more specific about the Massive, we also unload our pendant lamps and give it a nice bath.
Meaning: We have a saying “get rid of the old to bring in the new“, so cleaning means to get rid of all the bad things/ bad luck and saying goodbye to the past year, then you can greet your new year luck.
Timing: The timing is really important, you should only clean before the new year. If you do it during the new year, that means you are sweeping your luck away.
Traditionally, we don’t throw garbage nor clean the house until the 5th day of the new year (初五). Of course, nowadays family can’t literally “follow” that tradition with 5 days of garbage in the house. So usually, we just strictly don’t clean the house on the first and second day of the new year.
2. Buy New Clothes!
When I was younger, this was my favorite part of pre-Chinese New Year. I can go to my mom and ask for money to go shopping and wear them on New Year’s Eve.
Meaning: There is a certain legend about how this tradition starts, but nowadays it means New Year New clothes New beginning.
Time: We will be fully and “newly” dressed on New Year’s Eve and the first day of New Year. We put on our new clothes to visit our relatives.
3. Put up spring couplets
The day before Chinese New Year, I believe everyone will be bustling around in the house. In my family, my mom will be cooking from early morning until the moment we start having our New Year’s Eve Massive meal, and my dad will be busy tearing off spring couplets and putting up the new ones. We have to make sure every Spring Couplet is at its exact position since it will last for the whole year.
Time:In the daytime of New Year’s Eve, between 06:00-12:00. (Yes, there is a certain time for you to put on this red paper!)
Where: The main places are: Entrance door, Bedroom doors, Refrigerator.
Meanings: Every word has a specific location to be placed.
When we take off the old couplets, we tear them into pieces which means also getting rid of the old, bringing forth the new.
Meanings of different types of Spring couplets
You can see Spring Couplets with this word almost everywhere, it means Fortune and Blessing.
We mainly stick it on bedroom doors, entrance door, or cupboards.
lol, you have to recognize this! It’s the first word of spring roll!😂
So, not hard to guess, this word means Spring.
We NEVER put this couplet on our main entrance door, because we use this word for “prostitution” as well. So if you put it on your entrance door, it means….hmmm😉
We will stick it on windows, some said bedroom(but still, there’s a debate about whether it’s appropriate or not).
This one means Full, we will stick this on our rice containers and fill them up with rice, which we hope will always be full.
We always have this on our refrigerator which means Delicacies from Land and Sea.
招財進寶(zhāo cái jìn bǎo)
This one is pretty interesting, for me as well.
It looks like one word, but actually, it’s a combination of four words.
This proverb means invite fortune, enter treasure.(lol, I guess some of you might be rolling your eyes already: those Chinese really love 💰🤑😂)
We stick it on our main entrance.
I still remember when I was a kid, I saw this couplet on our entrance door and I asked my mom:
👶🏻Mom, how do you read this word? How come my teacher never taught me this word?
Then she explained that this is a combination of four words. That’s why it’s not really a “real word”.(I hope you understand what I mean.)
On the table
Let me show you how a Vegetarian Family’s New year’s meal looks like!
In most families, we have this round candy box in which we put our traditional snacks.
(keep in mind: only Red ones!)
Then finally after our New Year’s Eve dinner, it’s every children’s favorite time, receiving red envelopes from elders (also grown-ups give their parents). The family reunion dinner sometimes means “all relatives”. So that means children will get red envelopes not only from their parents, grandparents but also from uncles and Aunts.
Then begins the gambling(this is the only time we are “legal” to gamble in my family), we gather together and play card games or any other Board Games using the red envelopes we just got. This is a very exciting moment because that means your red envelope grows or shrinks(tbh mine shrinks almost every year…)
Who can receive a red envelope: This depends on every family. In some families, parents give red envelopes to their children until the day their children get married. Some parents stop giving red envelopes when their child reaches a certain age or when they start to work.
Last Step: Don’t sleep before midnight!
In Chinese, we call this 守歲 (Shǒusuì)
The meaning behind:
For the elders, it means to say goodbye to the past ages, to cherish the time you have left. As for the younger ones, it means “keeping the time” you have left with your parents, hoping to have more time with them.
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