Lunar New Year Traditions

As it is evident, the lunar New Year is based on moon cycles and therefore its dates are not fixed. Usually, it commences in the last week of January or in the month of February according to the solar calendar, as the Chinese calendar is the combination of solar and lunar cycles.

Lunar New Year is celebrated in many parts of Asia such as China, Korea and Vietnam. It is also celebrated in the US and other countries by the Asian communities. Similar to the solar calendar, lunar year is also divided into 12 months and the first day of the first month is called lunar New Year.

The lunar New Year has been observed as an auspicious holiday for the past five thousand years in China. The Chinese calendar actually began in 2700BC, during the reign of Emperor Huang Ti. Later on, in the 2300BC, Emperor Yao instructed his astronomers to invent a calendar that can help farmers determine the exact time of different seasons and the right time to harvest.


Chinese observe the lunar New Year with great fanfare and rendezvous with friends. The preparations start from the last dates of the previous lunar month. They pay all their debts, get their hair cut and buy new clothes. To ward off misfortune and invite good luck, they clean their homes. The cleanliness drive is thorough and massive. But, on New Year’s Day, the cleaning is completely prohibited, as it’s considered to be inauspicious on that day. Rubbish and dirt is collected in the room till the next five days and then it’s cleared through the backdoor.


Paper cutouts of traditional themes of happiness and wealth are used to dress and adorn the windows and doors. Incense is used in houses and places of worship as a mark of respect for ancestors and as a good omen for health in the New Year.

New Year’s Eve

A special get together is arranged on the New Year’s Eve, where popular local dishes are served. Family members play cards and other games or simply watch the New Year programs on TV. At midnight, the celebration begins with dazzling fireworks. Fireworks and lights are considered to be a powerful act to ward off the evil spirits.

New Year Day

In the morning, when the sun of the New Year dawns, youngsters and children greet their parents and elders and in turn are awarded with “lay see”, the money kept in red envelopes and thought to be lucky. Then the family members go outside the house and wish their neighbors and friends knocking every door in the neighborhood. This is an auspicious and festive occasion, where people do away with their differences, reconcile as a goodwill gesture, and exchange gifts for many days to come. All around, there is an atmosphere of peace, festivity, celebration, social get-togethers, folk dance and fun. The celebration continues till the next fortnight. It’s also known as Spring festival and after this festive season ends another festival called the Lantern Festival starts.


The festival food is amazing and there are up to nine dishes on the dining table during this festival. Number four and any number which is less than six is avoided, when it comes to number of dishes. The favorite food includes fish, whole chicken, dumplings, jiao zi, Jai, and fried vegetables.


According to a legend, Nian monster, the evil power that swept away all crops, livestock and villagers in Ancient China can be thwarted with bright red clothes. Red is considered to be a color that protects and brings good luck in the New Year. White is considered to be a symbol of sorrow and misfortune and hence it’s avoided completely.

Lunar New Year Recipes

Lunar New Year celebrations

Lunar New Year, the spring festival is one of the most traditional Chinese holidays and it is observed by Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese populations. It marks the end of winter season and ends with Lantern Festival on the 15th day.

In 2019, the lunar New Year is falling on 5th Feb. The festival has mythical, cultural and historical significance in these Asian communities. There’s no particular food associated with the occasion, such as turkey cranberry sauce is associated with Thanksgiving Day in United States.

So, there are no specific dishes that can represent the cuisine of the lunar New Year. What is important is social get-togethers and dining with your loved ones.

Festive foods and dishes

There are countless festive foods and dishes which can make your New Year’s Eve quite a celebration. There is something for everyone, regardless of how big the party is. Whether it is a private dinner with your family and friends, or a grand gala party, the cocktails, appetizers and desserts can make the event memorable. Chicken Lettuce Cups, Chicken Lo Mein with Ginger Mushrooms, Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum, Jiaozi Dumplings, Tangerine Beef, Thai Shrimp Halibut Curry and Pot Stickers are some of the dishes that the people love to eat at the New Year’s Eve.

Popular local cuisine

Homemade jiaozi (dumplings with a wheat flour wrapper) are popular in Northern China, whereas in South people love the rice dishes. Rice cakes are considered to be lucky food, as “Nian” the Chinese variant for “year” stands for rice. Apart from that meat, seafood, and vegetable dishes are also enjoyed at this occasion. Stir-fried, Nian Gao (rice cakes) is the most popular dish across China.
Below are some of the types of foods and drinks that people love to have on this occasion:

  1. Appetizers
  2. Asian Cocktails
  3. Desserts
  4. Dishes
  5. Fast Food
  6. Vegetarian Dishes

Asian Cocktails:

The popular cocktails for Lunar New Year celebrations are:

  1. Mango Margarita: A simple margarita recipe with mango flavor
  2. Red Lotus: Sweet and refreshing lychee and cranberry flavor
  3. Mango Spice Cocktail: A Mango Vodka with mango nectar and hot jalapeno peppers
  4. Lotus Blossom: Martinti, vodka, Japanese sake with lychee nuts and lime flavor


  1. Jiaozi Dumplings: A New Year Eve dish; Jiaozi Dumplings with Dipping Sauce (Ginger Soy)
  2. Spring Rolls: A gold bar shape rolls are considered to be a symbol of wealth, stuffed with vegetables and barbecued meat
  3. Pearl Balls: A symbol of reunion, it’s a round meatball
  4. Lettuce Wraps: A lucky Cantonese food, where chicken meat can be replaced with dried oysters
  5. Potstickers: Half pan fried and half steamed dumplings served with Soy Sauce, chillies and Ginger
  6. Clam Sycee: A Shanghai food resembling gold is a symbol of good fortune
  7. Yuanxiao Dumplings: Dumplings meant for Lantern Festival the closing of New Year celebrations

Main dish recipes for Lunar New Year

  1. Kung Pao Chicken: A spicy Szechuan dish, with ingredients such as diced chicken, chili peppers, peanuts. The stir fried version reduces the calories of the dish.
  2. Peking Duck: A delicious Beijing dish made with duck slices to be taken with hoisin sauce and pancakes
  3. General Tso’s Chicken: An authentic Hunan chicken dish named after a Chinese army general
  4. Cantonese Roast Duck: A very popular and easily available shiny reddish skin Cantonese duck dish
  5. White Cut Chicken: A symbol of purity; a chicken poached in rice wine to turn its meat color into pure white

New Year Desserts

The popular New Year Desserts are Sticky Cake (Nian Gao), Baked Nian Gao, Peking Dust, Almond Cookies, Egg Custard Tarts, Sesame Seed Balls, Eight Precious Pudding, Five Spice Peanuts, Sago Tarts, Sweet Red Bean Soup, Sesame Seed Custard, Fortune Cookies, and Preserved Kumquats.

Lunar New Year Customs

The New Year celebrations are always observed with certain customs and traditions. Explore the Lunar New Year customs followed by many of the countries all around the world.

Lunar New Year customs are followed by Chinese and Koreans. Only these two countries calculate the New Year as per the moon based calendar. There are many traditions and rituals practiced by them during the celebrations time.

Lunar New Year traditions

Worshipping the Kitchen God – The New Year customs are based on the Lunar Calendar. Kitchen god s worshipped on 23rd and 24th of lunar December. God residing in the kitchen is called as the Kitchen God. People who follow the lunar year believe that every family has Kitchen God who guides and protects the family from the evils.

House cleaning – The entire house and shops are swept and cleaned. Each and every corner of the living area is cleaned and washed. It is believed that this would bring good luck and fortune to their homes.

Sacrifice ceremony – It is Lunar New Year tradition to arrange family dinner and gatherings during the New Year time. The Chinese hold a worship ceremony and offer sacrifices to the heavenly Gods and ancestors.

Feast on New Year – The families in Japan and Korea prepare special dinner which is called the ‘Family reunion dinner’. All the members and close friends are present in this gathering to enjoy the scrumptious meal prepared for the last meal of the year.

Staying up on New Year Eve – Among other customary practices the Chinese people stay up on the Lunar New Year. The elders follow this to show that they are really cherishing the moments of festivity. The younger ones stay up for longevity and good health and the children enjoy the fun moments.

Lucky money – All the elders of the family present lucky money to the younger ones. It is one of the major traditions of Lunar New Year. Parents and Grandparents give money during the family dinner to the children. It is ritual to secretly keep this amount under the pillows after the children fall asleep.

Family Visits – During the New Year celebrations of 15 days the close friends and families visit each other and exchange gifts and cakes. It is Lunar Year tradition to give money to the children on these days.

New Year decorations – The homes are painted red which is beloved to shun the bad evils from entering the house. Lunar New Year includes portraits of Door Gods, paintings, paper cuttings for the windows and Chinese knots. Earlier days it was lighting up the candles but, lanterns and bulbs have replaced it. People adorn their homes and shops with red paper lanterns, flags, festoons and tiny bulbs.

Luna New Year greetings – It is a very important Lunar New Year customs to call all the relatives and friends during this time. This is one of the welcoming wishes conveyed to all the near and dear ones.

Fireworks – Greeting the New Year starts with the setting off firecrackers to display the spring festival. With the bang and illumination of fireworks, people rejoice the announcement of New Year.

Hope you enjoyed the New Year celebrations and gathered information on the Lunar New Year customs.

Lunar New Year Attractions

2019 Lunar New Year Fireworks Display

This year iconic Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong will be witness to a panoramic firework show on the first day of Lunar New Year on 5th Feb, 2019, as China and Hong Kong usher in the Year of the Sheep. Thousands of visitors and locals would queue up to enjoy the pyrotechnic displays at various cities in China as well.

Lunar New Year is one of the most important Chinese holidays and it has many related festivals, such as Lantern festival, Dragon Boat, Qingming, and Mid-autumn festival, which continue for the next 15 days.

Chinese people see it as an opportunity to wash away the ill luck of the previous year and invite the good luck and fortune in the New Year. That’s the reason they pay off their debts before the New Year Eve, get their haircut and decorate their houses with auspicious symbols, cutouts with good luck themes and red colored wall hangings to ward off ill fortune. Also known as Spring Festival, it’s similar to Canadian Icewine festival and Western Christmas and New Year week, where people indulge in celebrations, colorful parades, shows, eating out and other festivities.

Legend associated with Lunar New Year

Similar to the other Asian festivals, the origin of the festival is quite unknown, but according to a popular legend there was a huge beast known as Nian in ancient times, who used to attack villages in China in spring season and gobbled up whatever came its way, including men, livestock, buildings and animals. One spring, an old man suggested a trick and asked all the villagers to hang sparkling red papers in front of their houses, doors and windows and burn bamboos when the monster arrives. The trick worked. The beast was in fact so bewildered seeing the brightness, glitter and burning crackles of the bamboos that it ran away from the settlements. At present the word “nian” stands for the “year.”

Since the time, people in China have been hanging lanterns and red paper objects at their doors and creating loud sounds on the Lunar New Year’s Eve. Burning bamboos were replaced with even louder firecrackers. So, the Chinese rightly believe in the louder, bigger and better.

New Year Festival Activities

Chinese people take their New Year very seriously. It’s considered that thoroughly cleaning and sweeping the homes brings good fortune for them. Breaking utensils and use of sharp objects are thought to be the contrary. It’s a holiday season and people flock to their homes from their jobs and universities to enjoy the fanfare with their family members. The trains and public transport facilities are packed in China during this season, as some people are returning homes, whereas some are just enjoying their long vacation doing some travelling.

New Year’s Eve

On New Year’s Eve, when the entire family and near ones are around, having delicious Chinese dishes together becomes a cherished moment. Chicken Lettuce Cups, Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum, Jiaozi Dumplings, Cantonese Roast Duck, Rice Cakes, Sea food (including fish which is considered as auspicious and symbol of wealth) along with desserts and wines are the foods people enjoy together.

Red is the color of festivity and prosperity in China and people wear red on this occasion. Children also participate in the practice of getting red envelopes from their elders. These envelopes are actually a monetary gift to the youngsters from the seniors of the family.

Attractions of Spring Festival in Beijing

You can participate in a popular fair called Ditan Temple Fair during Lunar New Year celebrations in Beijing. Ditan is the Chinese word for Temple of Earth. The fair commences from 5th Feb 2019. It is in Dongcheng District. Apart from it, you can also participate in Longtan Temple Fair and Dongyue Temple Fair.

Temple fairs have a very old history in China and foreign tourists enjoy this cultural experience. It includes traditional folk performances such as dragon dance and lion dance. Traditional arts and crafts are displayed by the locals. Fun games, acrobatic shows and delicacies such as court dishes and Beijing snacks make these fairs a “must attend” event.