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6 Chinese New Year Traditions You Never Knew

Hello everyone,

As URBAN eat’s in-house Chinese expert, I wanted the opportunity to write a blog post about Chinese New Year traditions… It’s the year of the sheep (or goat) this year.

Find out what the year has in store for you read your horoscope, I’m a monkey in the Chinese zodiac, and apparently as it’s a wood year, I’ll face challenges and open doors of possibility as well as being wittier, wiser and quicker than usual. I’m assuming the latter is regarding quicker thoughts than my actual ability to run as I’m not very athletic…

So firstly – Happy Chinese New Year! Or for those readers that speak Cantonese ‘Gong Hay Fat Choi’ or those who speak Mandarin ‘Gong xi fa choi’. And I wish you a wonderful year filled with wealth, luck and happiness!

Now the Chinese in general are very superstitious but being superstitious seems to have worked in our favour for many centuries, so why stop now? Here are some of the Chinese New Year traditions that I go through with my family every year:
This might sound very odd, and it is… but having a bath filled with orange peel and leaves is meant to bring luck and wealth, as in Cantonese the word for ‘Orange’ is the same for ‘Gold’. The bath is meant to take place before Chinese New Year, as then it can wash away everything that has happened in the past year and ensure that you’re ready for all the luck and wealth that is coming your way in the coming year.
The red envelopes are normally given by the married to the unmarried, so if you’re a young unmarried Chinese person then you’ll love this holiday because it’s a chance to get lots of money from everyone that’s older than you, such as Aunties, Uncles, Grandmas, Grandpas, and external family friends. Basically kids on Chinese New Year truly do reap the benefits. Aside from getting the money, the red envelope symbolises luck for the year and wards off evil spirits, ensuring that you’ve got off to a good start!
At every Chinese New Year, I help my mum fill in this Chinese Candy Box mainly because I like eating the things inside, but also because I’m a very helpful person. Once full, the box is presented to each family member and we each say nice things to one another such as “Hope you have good luck, wealth and health etc.” then you take a piece of food from the box.

The box will normally contain oranges because they symbolise wealth and they will also have red envelopes inside to symbolise luck and to ward off bad spirits. Aside from this, the box itself will contain things covered in sugar like coconut and lotus root, as well as dried seeds such as lotus seeds and melon seeds.
Another tradition is to decorate the house with lots of things that are red and colourful. As well as having bright and cheery characters around the decorations contribute to welcoming the upcoming year. Also, not pictured here is something that brings good luck. Just grab a pot of ‘Bridal Crown’ Daffodils and tie a red envelope around it, and hey presto, the fates will be with you all year round!
Before Chinese New Year, families gather together to share one dinner and this is it’s a big feast (trust me!). For this meal lots of dishes are prepared and traditionally all the main meats, such as chicken, fish, pork and beef, will feature; this year though our dinner also featured some roast duck too. This meal is designed to bring luck and to start the year with plenty of food to eat! My grandma also says that it’s important to not leave your fridge empty at the beginning of the New Year – so my grandma leaves a bowl of rice inside her fridge.
My mum and grandma have always said to not clean on the first day of Chinese New Year because you don’t want to sweep away all the luck – so this means do all your cleaning the night before. Also, no washing your hair on the first day either, so clean in advance!

Fun Fact: Chinese New Year lasts 15 days (pretty sure we just give ourselves reasons to eat lots of food and party…). On the 15th Day we have the equivalent of Valentine’s Day, and on the 7th day it’s everyone’s birthday so it’s not just the queen who has two birthdays!

These are the main Chinese New Year traditions, after a day in the office I’m going to go eat some Chinese food, what will you be doing today? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter!