Lunar New Year: Day-by-Day Guide
2021 Lunar New Year falls on February, 12th on the lunar calendar. Also known as Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, it is the most important celebration of the year, which lasts 16 days, from New Year's Eve to the 15th day of the New Year—the Lantern Festival. Mainland China will enjoy a seven-day holiday known as the Golden Week from February, 11th to 17th, while the rest of Southeast Asia will have a two- to three-day celebration.
This year we welcome the year of the Ox, which represents prosperity, dependability, and stability in the Chinese horoscope.
As the most important festival of the year for Chinese around the world, there are many centuries-old traditions still observed today. These traditions may be celebrated in slightly different ways by different people, but their wishes are almost always identical—wishing family and loved ones good health, luck, and prosperity for the year ahead.
Below is a daily guide to Lunar New Year traditions:
In the days leading up to Lunar New Year, it is customary to spring-clean your home. It is traditionally believed that dust represents "old" things, so cleaning houses means doing away with the "old" and preparing for the "new," with the intention of sweeping all the rotten luck from the previous year out the door. Today, people do this in the hope of a good year ahead.
Pasting Spring Couplets
In Chinese culture the color red symbolizes good fortune and joy. People also believe auspicious house decorations can help drive away evil spirits and bring good luck. By decorating homes with red and auspicious decorations, people hope that their family will be surrounded by good fortune and joy throughout the coming year.
A popular decoration known as the Spring Couplets are commonly pasted on the sides of a house’s main door. The tradition originated from Taofu (桃符 táo fú), an inscription on boards made from peach trees in the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE). On these boards, people wrote the names of two gods who can bring good luck and control evil spirits. By the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), Taofu was gradually replaced by two pieces of red paper and evolved into today's Spring Couplets.
Enjoying a Reunion Dinner
Besides cleaning and decorating the house to get rid of the old and making way for the new, Lunar New Year is a time to reunite with family. With a seven-day public holiday, many people in China try their best to return home for a reunion dinner, deemed the most important meal of the year. An important occasion for the whole family, reunion dinners are often lavish affairs, eaten on New Year's Eve to prepare for the arrival of Lunar New Year. Lucky dishes at the reunion dinner include fish, chicken, dumplings, and Nian Gao (年糕, sticky cake for New Year), which each have symbolic meanings.
Visiting Relatives and Friends
During Lunar New Year it is customary for younger generations to visit their elders, to wish them health and longevity. Prosperity greetings and health well wishes such as Gong Xi Fa Cai (恭喜发财) and Shen Ti Jian Kang (身体健康) are often used to greet relatives and friends. Married couples will also give red packets of lucky money to elders and children, as a blessing. This year, many families may have to hold smaller gatherings or get creative with video calls in place of face-to-face visiting due to COVID-19 restrictions in group gatherings.
On behalf of Cartus, we wish you and your family Xin Nian Kuai Le (新年快乐), Shen Ti Jian Kang（身体健康）(Happy New Year and good health in the year ahead)!
Impact to Relocation and Traveling to and within China
With business closures and people returning home for the holidays, the Lunar New Year has a significant impact on China, so if you are relocating there, or planning to travel, do take the following precautions:
- Plan and book your travel tickets early as they are limited, especially for train services.
- Notify your local embassy on your travel plans and stay updated on the latest COVID-19 development of the city that you are visiting. Restrictions, health declarations, and quarantine may apply and vary between cities.
- Local government is discouraging unnecessary travel during this period in view of the spike in COVID-19 cases in certain cities .