Getting ready for the Chinese New Year


The Chinese New Year begins February 14 this year, but preparations have already begun. 

“My mom will cook more than ten big dishes for the New Year’s Eve dinner,”said Ling Bin, instructor of Chinese at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. “Family members will give the house a complete clean.  We do a lot of shopping as well as to prepare gifts for relatives.”

Li Shang moved from Anshun, Guizhou, China more than two years ago to be closer to family in Minneapolis. Far away from her homeland, she continues the tradition by decorating her room. “We would say, ‘Make my dream come true.’ At the house we would put the happiness character and you would hang your character upside down because it says you happiness is here, right here in the house.”  Words are written on a piece of red paper cut into a diamond shape and glued upside down on the wall or door on the New Year’s Day, to bring good fortune to the forthcoming year.  

Click here for more on a variety of New Year celebrations.

For the first time, Qin Huan will be celebrating the Chinese New Year in a different country. Coming from Shanghai as a foreign exchange student, she’ll be celebrating with other foreign exchange students from China.  “We will try to have a hotpot dinner together to have some fun,” said Huan.  Unable to partake in the traditional family events this year, she’s aware of how they’ll be celebrating.  “Give red packet to teenagers and kids in the family; put some money inside, means wishes for the New Year. Go to temples on the night after the reunion dinner to pray for a great year,” she said.     

As the adults tackle the more difficult duties, children look forward to this time of year.  “Kids are busy shopping for different kinds of firecrackers.  Everyone gets a haircut before the New Year.  So everything and everyone looks new and fresh in the New Year,” said Ling Bin.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, the animal designated for the upcoming year is the tiger.  Beliefs and traditions have developed in connection with the tiger.

“Usually if a person has the same representative animal as tiger, he needs to wear red inside,” said Qin Huan. “These people need to go to temple to pray or take care in whatever they do.”

It is believed bad luck may happen if one doesn’t participate in the customs, but ultimately the decision is upon the individual.

“If you are born in the goat (sheep), don’t marry the person who were born in the year of the tiger.  The tiger is the king of beasts in China. It is active, emotional, and independent,” said Bin.

The importance of holidays varies from country to country.  “Chinese New Year is actually the same important to Chinese as the meaning of Christmas to American,” said Huan. ” It can also be called Spring Festival, as after the Chinese New Year, the spring is coming.”

The Chinese New Year derives from the lunar calendar.  For the most part, the New Year occurs at the end of January or the beginning of February.