The Chinese New Year is one of the most important traditional festivals in Chinese society. As the end of the year approaches, households begin to clean and prepare for the festivities. However, the Chinese New Year is not just a simple celebration; it holds profound cultural significance and a long history of traditions. How much do you know about the meaning of the Chinese New Year, its traditional customs, and the taboos to be respected? This article will explore the cultural essence of the Chinese New Year and help you smoothly celebrate while welcoming a year of wealth and auspiciousness!

Grandpa was writing Chinese New Year couplets at New Year's Eve.

Meaning of the Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year, commonly known as Du Sui or Guo Nian in Chinese, is one of the four major traditional festivals for Chinese people. The celebration of the Chinese New Year primarily focuses on the first to the fifth day of the first lunar month, the busiest period filled with a strong festive atmosphere. In some places, New Year celebrations may extend until the 15th day of the first lunar month, officially concluding with the Lantern Festival.

What are the traditional customs of the Chinese New Year?

In the past, you might have heard this saying: “Wake up early on the first day, wake up early on the second day, and sleep in on the third day.” Do these days have special meanings? Let’s find out together.

  • The 23rd day of the 12th lunar month: Worship the Kitchen God
    Every year on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, people worship and send off the Kitchen God. Legend has it that each household has a Kitchen God, also known as the Stove God. The Kitchen God not only manages the stove’s fire but also keeps a record of the family’s deeds throughout the year. On the 23rd day of the 12th month, the Kitchen God returns to the Heavenly court to report to the Jade Emperor. Based on a family’s actions in the past year, the Jade Emperor will bestow blessings or bring calamities to the family in the New Year. To ensure the Kitchen God speaks favorably when reporting in the Heavenly court, families prepare sweets and candies as offerings. Some even smear sugar on the Kitchen God’s mouth, saying, “Good deeds go to Heaven, bad deeds are cast aside.”

How to worship the Kitchen God? What if there is no image of the Kitchen God at home?

Patrol Heaven Festival: Heavenly deities inspect good and evil deeds among the people

  • The 24th day of the 12th lunar month: House Cleaning and Posting of Spring Couplets
    House cleaning is a traditional practice before welcoming the New Year. From the day of sending off the gods to New Year’s Eve, people clean both inside and outside their homes, symbolizing “welcoming the new and discarding the old.” They sweep away misfortunes, illnesses, troubles, and worries from the past year, preparing for a fresh start. Afterward, people replace old Spring Couplets and Door Gods with new ones, changing them every year to symbolize renewal.

What is the significance of posting Spring Couplets? How to handle old Spring Couplets and Door Gods?

  • New Year’s Eve: Making offerings to deities and ancestors, family reunion dinner
    The last day of the 12th lunar month is New Year’s Eve, a day when people prepare sumptuous offerings to worship deities and ancestors, expressing gratitude for their care and blessings throughout the year and praying that the New Year will bring peace and blessings. During the New Year’s Eve dinner, families gather around the stove for the reunion feast. Following the meal, elders usually give red envelopes, known as lucky money, to the younger generation, symbolizing the suppression of evil spirits and the wish for peace and safety.

On New Year’s Eve, offering sacrifices to deities and ancestors requires attention!

  • New Year’s Day: Rise early for a prosperous start
    There is a saying: “Wake up at five in the morning on the first day of the New Year.” Rising early on the first day symbolizes a vibrant and energetic start to the New Year. Many people visit temples early on this day to pray for a peaceful and smooth time ahead. They also go to the homes of friends and relatives to exchange New Year greetings, a tradition known as “going for a stroll.”

  • The 2nd Day: Returning to the maternal family
    The second day is when married daughters return to their home of origin, also known as “Welcoming the Son-in-Law Day.” When daughters return, they bring gifts symbolizing good luck and prosperity to their families.

  • The 3rd Day: Sleep until waking naturally
    It is said that the third day is when mice get married, so on this night, it’s advisable to sleep early to avoid disturbing the weddings of the mice. Additionally, people may scatter rice and salt in the corners of their homes, symbolizing a bountiful and safe harvest in the New Year.

  • The 4th Day: Welcoming the deities
    According to legend, on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, the deities return to the Heavenly court to report on the good and evil deeds of the human world. It’s only on the fourth day that the deities return to the mortal realm. Therefore, on the fourth day of the Chinese New Year, people welcome the deities back home for continued worship, seeking Divine blessings.

  • The 5th Day: Welcoming the God of Wealth
    The fifth day is believed to be the birthday of the God of Wealth. Many businesses reopen on this day to attract prosperity. Additionally, accumulated garbage from the New Year period is cleaned on this day.

Unveiling the Origin of the God of Wealth: How Does the Mysterious Guardian Deity of Wealth Affect Your Financial Fortune?

Who is the God of Wealth? Understand the origin and diverse incarnations of the God of Wealth and roll in abundance in the New Year!

Door Gods: safeguarding homes and bestowing peace

The Chinese New Year has many traditional customs, each with its rich and fascinating stories. Pasting up Door Gods is a tradition passed down through generations, symbolizing the expulsion of evil spirits and the protection of homes for peace. According to traditional beliefs, Door Gods are primarily responsible for guarding the home and expelling ghosts and evils. In folk beliefs, there are many different combinations of Door Gods. The earliest Door Gods are believed to be the ancient mythological figures Shen Tu and Yu Lei, who possessed the ability to ward off evil spirits. Among the many Door Gods, Qin Qiong and Yuchi Gong are the most common pair. Qin Qiong, with the courtesy name Shu Bao, and Yuchi Gong, with the courtesy name Jing De, were both famous military generals during the Tang dynasty. There are various versions of the legend explaining how these two generals became Door Gods, and the following is the most widely known story.

Military general dispelling nightmares

According to legend, Emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty, Li Shimin, committed numerous killings in his quest for the imperial throne. After ascending to the throne, he was plagued by nightmares every night, which caused him great distress and affected his health. To address this issue, Emperor Taizong decided to summon the renowned generals Qin Qiong and Yuchi Gong, who were fully armed, to guard the palace’s main gate. The hope was to expel evil spirits and thwart disturbances from ghosts and monsters. Furthermore, Emperor Taizong repeatedly sought the assistance of priests to perform rituals for the salvation of restless souls. Following these efforts, Emperor Taizong’s nightmares ceased, and his mental wellbeing improved. However, having the two generals guard the gate every night was not a sustainable solution. Consequently, Emperor Taizong instructed the best court painter to capture the appearances of Qin Qiong and Yuchi Gong. The painter created lifelike portraits, each exuding a majestic and stern presence, which were then affixed to the palace gate. Remarkably, the portraits achieved the same intimidating effect on evil spirits. Over time, this story spread among the people, and households began pasting portraits of the two generals on their doors for protection. Thus, Qin Qiong and Yuchi Gong became widely recognized Door Gods, shouldering the responsibility of safeguarding the people.

Chinese New Year Taboos

Chinese Family Gathering on New Year's Eve

The Chinese New Year is the most important festival of the year, and it naturally brings forth many taboos. People believe that respecting these taboos can bring good luck for the New Year. Here are some common Chinese New Year taboos:

1.Avoid speaking harsh words:

Do not speak ill or negative words and try to avoid conflicts. Also, refrain from using taboo words such as those associated with illness, death, separation, or parting. In case you inadvertently say something inappropriate, be aware and repent immediately.

2.Do not cut hair in the first month:

There is a saying: “Cutting hair in the first month brings death to one’s uncle.” Therefore, it is recommended for both men and women to have their hair cut before the Lunar New Year. The sound of “hair” is similar to “wealth” in Chinese, so cutting hair is considered symbolic of cutting off wealth and being unable to retain good luck.

3.Do not clean from the first to the fourth day:

During these days, avoid throwing things out or disposing of garbage to prevent casting away good luck and wealth. This taboo ends on the fifth day, known as “Breaking Five,” and you can then start cleaning the house while retaining good luck.

4.Do not sleep early on New Year’s Eve:

Staying up late on New Year’s Eve, known as Shou Sui, is a tradition of the Chinese New Year. People try to stay awake until midnight because that moment marks the true transition from the old year to the new one, and staying up to observe it symbolizes hope for a bright time ahead. Staying up late also includes offering blessings to parents and elders, wishing them health and longevity.

※ Kind reminder from Grandmaster JinBodhi:
During the New Year, manage your time wisely and pay attention to your health; don’t let yourself become overly busy and get sick.

Understand the rules of the Chinese New Year for brightness and blessings!

Many Chinese New Year taboos have been passed down over thousands of years, and they are the essence of ancient experience and wisdom. It is crucial to understand the cultural background of these customs with a respectful attitude. Do not take chances or test these traditions. Grandmaster JinBodhi reminds everyone to speak words of good fortune and perform good deeds not only during the New Year but also regularly. Those who are parents should lead by example in respecting Gods, Heaven, and Earth, showing filial piety to elders, and practicing generosity. By doing so, you can create a positive atmosphere, bring good luck to your life, and enjoy a smooth, prosperous, and happy year.