Chinese New Year’s Eve marks the onset of the national holiday and stands as the most anticipated day of the year. Despite the distances that separate them, people make the journey back to their hometowns to reunite with their families.

The day is brimming with excitement and anticipation, with many customary activities that Chinese people engage in. Here are some typical rituals and traditions observed on this auspicious day.

Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner (Nián yè fàn)

At the heart of Chinese New Year’s Eve festivities lies the cherished tradition of the Reunion Dinner. Families hold this gathering in utmost importance, considering it the pinnacle of the New Year celebrations.

This dinner holds significance not only for its familial warmth but also for its symbolic good luck and richness. Chinese households prepare an extravagant feast featuring dishes imbued with auspicious meanings. Whole fish, whether steamed or braised, takes centre stage on the dinner table as it symbolises abundance and surplus in the coming year. Similarly, rice cakes (Nián gao) appear, signifying aspirations for surpassing success in the year ahead.

Having Dumplings

Dumplings hold a special place on Chinese New Year’s Eve, particularly for those hailing from Northern China. The shape of dumplings resembles ancient Chinese silver and gold ingots, symbolizing wealth and prosperity. By meticulously wrapping fillings into the pastry, individuals metaphorically pack fortune into each dumpling.

Traditionally, freshly-made dumplings are savoured at midnight, symbolising wishes for a prosperous and auspicious year. In a practice reminiscent of nineteenth-century English cooks hiding silver pence inside Christmas pudding, some people even add coins to the filling, adding an extra layer of symbolism to this cherished tradition.

Exchange Red Envelopes

Red envelopes, also known as red packets, hold significant cultural importance during special occasions like the Chinese New Year.  Red symbolises energy, happiness, and good luck in Chinese culture, making red envelopes a cherished tradition.

During the Chinese New Year festivities, people exchange red envelopes containing money as a gesture of good wishes and luck, earning them the moniker “lucky money.”  Traditionally, elders gift lucky money to children and unmarried young individuals, symbolising the transmission of blessings and good fortune to the younger generation.

In recent years, mobile payment technology has transformed the tradition of red envelope giving.  Now, people can effortlessly send digital red envelopes to anyone in their network via platforms like WeChat.  This digital evolution has gained immense popularity; during the 2023 Spring Festival holiday, users sent red envelopes via WeChat more than 4 billion times.

Red Envelope 

Enjoy the Chinese New Year Gala

The Spring Festival Gala is a pinnacle television event in China, captivating audiences nationwide. Every Chinese New Year’s Eve, millions tune in to watch the Gala unfold on national television, a cherished tradition dating back to 1983. The show enchants viewers with its spectacular performances and innovative features, including cyber red envelopes.

Audience participation adds an exciting dimension to the Gala experience, as viewers have the opportunity to win cyber red envelopes by shaking their phones while watching the program. In a testament to its popularity, the 2022 Gala distributed a staggering 1.5 billion Chinese Yuan (approximately US$210 million) in gift money throughout the four-hour extravaganza.

Chinese New Year Gala

Light up Fireworks at Midnight

A longstanding tradition during Chinese New Year’s Eve involves the illumination of fireworks and firecrackers at the stroke of midnight. Chinese folklore holds that the bright flashes and loud bangs from these pyrotechnics have the power to ward off demons and evil spirits, ensuring a harmonious and auspicious start to the new year.

As the clock strikes midnight, families and communities gather to set off fireworks, symbolising the banishment of negative energies and the ushering in of prosperity and good fortune for the coming year. This vibrant display of light and sound serves as a spirited celebration of tradition and belief, uniting people in the collective hope for a joyful and auspicious future.

Today (9th Feb 2024) is the Chinese New Year’s Eve. We wish you a happy year of the dragon!

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