- Duilian pasted around doorways – 贴对联
- Purchasing of Spring Festival goods – 买年货
- Spring-cleaning – 大扫除
- Giving and receiving of hongbao – 给/收红包
- New Year’s Eve dinner with family – 年夜饭
- Wearing red underwear – 穿红内衣裤
- Setting off firecrackers – 放鞭炮
- Playing majiang – 打麻将
- Perusing the flower market – 逛花市
- New year’s greetings – 拜年
Duilian pasted around doorways – 贴对联
Duilian, are a pair of red banners pasted outside the entrance to a home. This Chinese New Year Tradition usually take place a day or two before the new year begins. Every family will go to their neighborhood general store or local market to buy either blank or already printed, red duilian. These duilian are then taken home, and if blank, painted by hand in calligraphy, before being hung. They represent good wishes for the new year and aid in warding off evil spirits or bad omens.
In addition to duilian, people also like to paste the Chinese word “福”on their windows, doors and/or walls. The character fu (福) has a meaning of happiness, good fortune, and luck all bundled into one – exactly what everyone wants for the coming new year. There is also a common tradition of intentionally pasting the 福upside-down. The reasoning behind this is semantic – the word for “upside-down” in Chinese is dao (倒), which happens to have the same pronunciation as the word for “coming” (also dao, though a different character (到)). So, “upside-down luck” sounds very similar to “luck is coming”.
Purchasing of Spring Festival goods – 买年货
Nianhuo, meaning “year goods”, refers to the items that need to be purchased before the new year. During the last week of the current year, it is very common to see long lines of customers in the markets and shopping malls, queuing up to buy nianhuo. In many places in China, candies and fruits (often mandarins) are the most common nianhuo. They are packaged in ornate boxes, which are either given as gifts or set out for relatives and friends to eat while they visit for the celebrations.
Spring-cleaning – 大扫除
Chinese New Year in China is called chunjie, which translates to “spring festival”. As such, it should be no surprise that spring-cleaning is an important part of ushering in the new year. Originating from an ancient religious ritual to ward off illness, this tradition now embodies a good old end of year deep clean. Out with the old in with the new (year).
Giving and receiving of hongbao – 给/收红包
Hongbao translates to “red envelope” in English, and is in essence just that, though filled with money. During Spring Festival, hongbao are a truly ubiquitous sight. Most commonly, they are given after the new year has officially begun and are allocated based on age: senior family members will give hongbao to those their junior by a generation or more. But this is not an all-encompassing rule, there are many nuances to the giving and receiving of hongbao, based on region, marital status, relation, and so forth.
New Year’s Eve dinner with family – 年夜饭
In China, New Year’s Eve dinner is the most important dinner of the whole year. This annual family reunion brings family members from all over the country, and even from abroad, back home together.
The exact customs of the New Year’s Eve dinner, though, vary greatly from place to place. For example, in northern China, dumplings are the staple of the meal. While in Sichuan, hotpot is the must-have. And in southern China, tangyuan (sweet-filled glutinous rice balls) are the omnipresent foodstuff.
Wearing red underwear – 穿红内衣裤
When it comes to Chinese New Year Traditions, the first thing people think of is the color red. Red lanterns, red couplets, red clothes, red firecrackers; these are the characteristics of the new year that can be seen everywhere. But red underwear, though lesser seen, is still just as prevalent, and in particular, with those whose year it is.
There are twelve Chinese zodiac used to mark the year of a person’s birth. This coming year, the year of the tiger, is the zodiac for people born in 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, and so forth. Many people believe that a coming year correlating to your zodiac should be a good omen, but the truth is paradoxical. The coming of your zodiac year is often considered unlucky, holding ominous prospects for the year ahead. So, in order to drive away any potential bad luck, people whose zodiac year is approaching wear red underwear (red being a fortuitous color).
Setting off firecrackers – 放鞭炮
Although most people no longer believe in the widespread existence of demons and monsters, the custom of setting off firecrackers to ward them away persists. Firecrackers are set off during many major festivals and celebrations in China: Lantern Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, weddings, housewarmings, and so on. Spring Festival is of course no exception, and an abundance of firecrackers is sure to mark a festive and long lasting new year celebration. That being said, in many large cities firecrackers are now banned due to fire safety and anti-pollution regulations.
Playing majiang – 打麻将
The clacking of majiang tiles is a sound sure to be heard at almost any new year family gathering. But, the intricacies and many regional varieties of majiang make it a difficult game to master. When we say regional varieties, we don’t mean northern vs southern China, or even interprovince, though those do exist too, but we mean village to village and household to household.
The simplest way to look at majiang is as a combination of playing cards and dominoes. However, compared with other types of dominoes, majiang is by far the most complex. Though the basic ground rules are relatively simple to understand, the decision-making, tactics and sheer speed at which most games are played is rigorous to say the least. Once mastered, however, there is arguably no better between-meal entertainment during the festival.
Perusing the flower market – 逛花市
The Spring Festival flower market is an annual event not to be missed. Originating in the temperate southerly province of Guangdong, this market is markedly different from other common flower markets and is only open for a few days in the lead up to the new year. In order to welcome the new year, it is customary to purchase the brightest and most dazzling flowers available to decorate the inside of the home with life and color.
New year’s greetings – 拜年
In ancient times, bainian (拜年) meant simply to give new year’s greetings to ancestors and elders – kowtowing and wishing good fortune and health for the year to come. However, nowadays, new year’s greetings are for everyone, and we mean everyone. There are text messages, stickers, emojis, etc. and they are sent to friends, family, colleagues – basically everyone in your contact list deserves a “新年好”（Happy New Year.
In person, though, the greeting etiquette is nuanced. For example, the traditional new year greeting is different for men and women: men bow while making their right hand into a fist and wrapping their left hand around it, whereas women press their hands together without making a fist at all.