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Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year (“CNY”) is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays, sometimes also called the Lunar New Year. It is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and people will pour out their money to buy presents, decorations, material, food and clothing.

The celebration actually starts on New Year’s Eve with the reunion dinner.

The following should have been done before New Year’s Eve:

  • Clean house and get rid of all things that are associate with the old year
  • Put away brooms and brushes
  • Pay all your debts
  • Resolve differences with family members, friends, neighbours and business associates
  • Get new dollar bills from the bank and insert the new dollar bills into the red envelopes (lee see)

You need to buy the following:

  • Red money envelopes
  • Oranges (which represent good health and long life) and / or tangerines (long lasting relationships)
  • Circular candy tray (candy for sweet and circular for togetherness)
  • Flowers, especially plum blossom, peach blossom and water lily (if flowers bloom on New Year’s Day, it will be a prosperous year)
  • A new set of clothes and shoes for children preferably something red or orange

On New Year’s Eve:

  • Get together with family members for a dinner
  • Pay respect to ancestors and household gods
  • Open every door and window at midnight to let go of the old year

On New Year’s Day:

  • Decorate home with symbols of good fortune. Ie: bright red (happiness); gold / orange (wealth and happiness) colours
  • Eat the following food:
  • Jai ie ginkgo nut, black moss, dried bean curd, bamboo shoots, vermicelli and scallion (represents good fortune)
  • Fish and chicken (represent prosperity). Do not cut them in pieces, present as a whole as they symbolize completeness
  • Noodles (represent longevity) – again should not be cut
  • Desserts including oranges, ni gao (Chinese New Year cake) and prosperous cakes

Do’s and Don’ts on Chinese New Year


  • Greet others with “Gung Hey Fat Choy”
  • Give two lee see’s to each child (happiness comes in two’s and not just one – passing your good luck to the next generation)
  • Wear brand new clothes, preferably in red.


  • Wash your hair
  • Sweep the floor
  • Greet people who are mourning
  • Drop your chopsticks
  • Say the number ‘four’ or mention death
  • Borrow or lend money

You may or may not choose to follow these traditions. However, since my mother is quite traditional and superstitious, I have developed and continued some of these traditions. My favourite tradition would be receiving ang pao (red packets) and buying new clothes. Unfortunately, since I am married, I no longer get ang paos, instead I HAVE TO GIVE THEM OUT to those who are younger than me and not married!!

The best and one that I will miss this year is dinner with my family. I know for a fact that mum would start prepping for CNY eve dinner a couple of days beforehand. She would usually make 8 dishes – 8 being the lucky number and would include shark fin soup, peking duck, steamed fish, fried chicken, bakso goreng (pork balls), noodles, pork and stir fry veggies – all homemade and with lots and lots of love! I am truly going to miss CNY eve dinner this year and am looking forward to next year’s already!

To my parents and my brother – missing you guys for CNY – hope you have a fantastic New Year!

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