Chinese New Year (CNY) or Spring Festival in China

The Chinese New Year (CNY), or Spring Festival, or Nong Li Xin Nian in Chinese, is considered as the most important festival in China to celebrate which approximately two weeks holiday would be granted widely (though the public holiday would be less, 4 days for 2013). The celebration starts around the New Year Day which is the first day of the lunar year used by the Chinese for thousands of years.

There is an ancient story behind the celebration of the Chinese New Year (CNY) or Spring Festival in China. Thousands of years ago, there was a monster called “Nian” (later recognized as the word “Year” in Chinese) that went to sabotage villages each year ahead of the spring season and caused damages and casualties. To drive off this monster and protect the spring farming which was key to ensure normal farming activities for the whole year, the Chinese people tried a number of ways: they dressed in bright color, played dragon dance, decorate they houses in red and most importantly lighted the fireworks and gather around to create noise. When the monster of Nian (Year) was driven off, people started to celebrate widely and that was how the spring festival came about. Therefore, when the Chinese New Year even is translated as “celebration of new year”, in Chinese language it is understood as “pass the Year” which could also be understood as “pass the monster of year”. Here again, we can see that in Chinese culture, good things always come along with bad things and people are extremely long term oriented or so called as “crisis sensitive”.

The proceeding days

In the proceeding days, traditional Chinese people would do a number of things to gear up for the coming new year and the holiday. And to those who are working distant from hometown, going back home seem to be the key task to be accomplished with top priority. Here one needs to understand the background of the “spring travel” before he or she can totally apprehend such big challenge / event to the transportation system of China each year:-

a. Economy reform beginning from the 1980s determines the fact that coastal areas are more developed than the inner areas of the mainland China;

b. While big cities are mostly overcrowded, rural areas are much less developed;

c. Migration involves a number of difficulties such as education of children.

Therefore, heavy spring travel will definitely exist for the coming foreseeable years though the more and more developed transportation system (such as the high speed railway) of the country does help to mitigate such transportation difficulty.


Around one week before the kick-off of the CNY, some outdoor fairs (flower markets) would appear where fresh flowers and trees full of small oranges are sold. 2 days or 3 days ahead of the CNY, the Chinese families would have a thorough cleaning of their houses for doing which they believe would help to remove the bad luck and embrace the good new year.


market of flower

Oranges symbolize abundance and fortune.  

peach flower

Different flowers to be placed at home represent different intensions. Peach Blossoms means prosperity and is believed to be helpful to gather good relationship. Family with young people at marriage age would usually place a big Peach Blossoms at doors with hope to attract romance in the coming year.


 Peonies are known as the flower of riches and honor. Peonies symbolize romance and prosperity and are regarded as an omen of good fortune and happymarriage.

New Year’s Eve

Family gathering is the theme of the New Year’s Eve, the dinner of the New Year’s Eve is extremely important in particular to those working or study distantly and their families. The dinner of the New Year’s Eve will usually be held at home with parents making traditional dishes which may not be available in the restaurants. Obviously people from different provinces, different religions or ethnic groups would have different ways to enjoy such family gathering. Commonly welcome food are fish, chicken and etc. The rule of making this important dinner is that the name of the dish must mean luck and fortune. For example, fish represents prosperity due to its closed pronunciation with the word “more”. After the dinner, people in the north tend to stay at home watching the Spring Festival Gala Evening held by the CCTV (China Central Television) while people in the south could have another choice which is to visit the flower fair as it is tend to be warmer in the south. Though watching the Spring Festival Gala Evening is not a traditional custom, with the popularization of television it has become a widely accepted custom to gather around with families to watch the CCTV and wait for the countdown of the New Year. Spring Festival Gala of 2012 wins the Guinness World Records by having 498 million viewers in 2012 celebrating the Year of Dragon- making it the most watched national variety entertainment show in the world.

And when the clock hit 12:00pm, most families would light firecracker at the same time welcoming the lunar New Year. One famous poem by Wang AnShi (1021-1086) in the North Song Dynasty describes the New Year’s Eve like this:
The year passes with the ring of firecracker, wind of spring warms up the TuSu wine;
When the morning sun shines ten of thousand houses, the door gods are always renewed.

The first day of the Chinese New Year

On the first day of the Chinese New Year, people get up early and start to greet to each other. Everyone dresses in new. Children will say their wishes to their parents and the parents in return will also bless their children and give them lucky money contained in a red paper envelop. Also married elders will give lucky money to unmarried younger. The amount of money contained varies according each family’s level of income as well as the closeness between the givers and the receivers. Visiting friends and relatives would begin from this day.

On the particular day, people avoid using knifes and broom. Therefore, dishes at dining table are always well prepared on the previous day. Garbage would be gathered but not thrown away until the fifth day of the New Year on which all bans during the New Year days will also be removed.

The second day of the Chinese New Year

On the second day of the Chinese New Year, it is social custom that married couples together with their children (if any) would go back to the women’s portents’ home and visit relatives and friends there.

The third day of the Chinese New Year

On the third day of the Chinese New Year, traditionally people would stay at home and avoid outgoing on this particular day since this day is known as the “red dog’s day” or “red mouth” literally symbolizing it is easy to getting quarrels with other people. But with time passes, now more and more people will not strictly adhere to these bans.

The fourth day of the Chinese New Year

On the fourth day of the Chinese New Year, instead of going out to visit friends and relatives families will stay at home and consume the remaining food to avoid waste. Some will start to clean the houses and prepare for the big “throw away” coming at the fifth day of the New Year. According to traditions, on this day the Gods will return to earth. Since it is believed that the following day, i.e. the fith day of New Year, is the birthday of the most admired “Cai Shen” (The God of Wealth), some business will resume working after a relatively short period of holidays and hope that they could embrace the God of Wealth earlier than others. For businesses resuming on this day, bosses would give out lucky moneys and treat the subordinates a great meal symbolizing a good beginning of the work in the New Year.

The fifth day of the Chinese New Year

On the fifth day of the Chinese New Year which is known as the birthday of the God of Wealth, people set off fire crackers and have dumplings to welcome the God of Wealth and keep the poor away (by cleaning the houses and throwing away the collected garbage). And because of the meaning of this particular day, many business owners would consider it as one best day to resume working after the long New Year holiday.

As said above, since the fifth day is the birthday of the most admired “Cai Shen” (The God of Wealth), in the fourth day’s midnight, people would prepare the offering of sacrifice. When entering the fifth day, doors and windows would be open to welcome the God of Wealth. In the old days, people even have drinks outside the street until dawn.

The sixth day of the Chinese New Year

The sixth day of the Chinese New Year if the day when people send away the God of Poor away by continuing the throw away of the garbages. Farmers would start the farming works since this day.

The seventh day of the Chinese New Year

The seventh day of the Chinese New Year is considered as Ren Ri (人日), the birthday of everyone. According to the legend, Nu Wa, the goddess in charge of breeding of all living things created blossoming trees and flowers as well as animals and fishes. And on the 7th day, she felt lonely and thus she bent down and took up a handful of earth and mixed it with water creating the first human being which she liked. In order to celebrate the birth of all human beings, people considered the 7th day since each lunar New Year as the birthday of human being.

On this particular day, there are many customs in different areas. Some people would have “seven-treasure soup” consisting of seven kinds of vegetables and fish. In some places, on this day people who go to other people’s farm to collect vegetable in order to cook the “seven-treasure soup” will not be considered as thief. This custom is also inherited in Chinese communities in Malaysia as well as in Singapore as people would have “raw fish” on this day. Some people would have noodles to wish for long live. Despite of various customs, more Chinese would stay at home and prepare to start work and study in the coming days. As for those who travel a long distance back home, they would start or already on the way of the return trip.

The fifthteen day of the Chinese New Year

The Lantern Festival, also known as Yuan Xiao Festival. As the word Yuan means first while Xiao means the full moon day, this festival celebrates the first full moon day of the first month of the lunar calendar. This day also symbolizes the formal ending of the long Chinese New Year. The stories behind the Lantern Festival are many, one widely accepted version is that: after suppressing a rebellion the Han Emperor decided to celebrate the precious peace with the all the people on the day when the rebellion was appeased. Since then, the fifteen day of since the Chinese New Year was celebrated as a key festival in China.




 Sticky Rice Balls

With respect to the Buddhism, the emperor in the Dong Han Dynasty ordered to light up lanterns which later became one of the key rituals that people would do on this day. Other ways of celebration also include eating the Sticky Rice Balls and dragon dancing.


What day does Chinese New Year begin in 2013? When is Chinese New Year 2013 ?
In 2013, the Chinese New Year begins on 10th Feb 2013. But as usual, the celebration already started on two or three days ahead of the New Year Date, i.e. 10th Feb 2013. For instance, many commercial banks had already closed on 8th or 9th Feb and most factories or firms had already stopped working 5 or 6 days before the New Year because many people will need to travel a far distance to go home to celebrate such important festival with their families.



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