Chinese New Year Holiday Traditions

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In 2024, Chinese New Year, called the Chūn Jié 春節or “Spring Festival” in China, falls on Saturday, February 10th and is the year of the Wood Dragon. The Spring Festival is celebrated for 15 days, complete with activities, superstitions, gatherings and festivals. It is an ancient holiday which has developed over eons and while many customs are the same throughout, some are observed in specific regions or communities in China. Many of those below are especially important to the southern Chinese communities living along the Pearl River Delta and the diaspora of Cantonese immigrants around the world, including our own Lau family.

Mark your calendars and have fun with our list of dos and don'ts!

Read our Preparing for Chinese New Year article for tips on how to prepare in the weeks leading up to and the evening before Chinese New Year!

February 10th—Day 1


  • Traditionally and today, a visit to the Temple to make offerings to major deities and praying for blessings is paramount. At home, those with altars also make offerings and give thanks to household gods and ancestors.
  • Send new year greetings and best wishes to family, friends, and colleagues. In our modern times of email and social media, digital new year greetings are totally acceptable!
  • Visit your elders, bringing gifts such as fruit and desserts. Extravagant gifts will include abalone, dried scallops, “flower” shiitake mushrooms and other delicacies.
  • Photo of hands exchanging red envelopes
  • Married folks and elders give red envelopes with lucky money to children. This gesture symbolizes the gifting of blessings and good fortune. Keep red envelopes on hand as they are given throughout the 15 days of Chinese New Year (not to the same kids). Electronic “red envelopes” are now quite common in China--on the Chinese social platform “WeChat”, lucky money can be sent electronically complete with a cute red envelope emoji and new year’s greetings since almost everyone, including little kids, have smart phones.
  • Be vegetarian today to gain karmic merit (our family faves are PB&J sandwiches and carryout veggie pizza--easy!).
  • Wear new clothes (or at least new underwear for luck).
  • Meditate and do breathing exercises. Try to maintain inner peace the entire day (for a peaceful year).


  • Don’t argue with anyone (believed to lead to arguments and conflicts the whole year!)
  • Don't kill anything, including bugs (bad “killing” karma)
  • Don’t make a fire (believed to bring house-fire misfortune—and why a lot of carryout foods are consumed that day)
  • Don’t use knives, scissors or other sharp objects (believed to bring bloody-accident misfortune)
  • Don't sweep/vacuum (so as not to sweep away the good fortune--health, love, money, etc. that flowed into your house during the night).
  • Don't shower or wash your hair (so as not to wash away the good luck that landed on you while you slept).
  • Basically, don't wash anything today--it's the Water God's birthday!

February 11th—Day 2

  • “Two” in Chinese is a homophone for “easy” and “auspicious for”, so today should either be a day of ease or good for starting new projects and endeavors!
  • Feast Day! This signifies plenty in the year ahead. After yesterday’s vegetarian fare, lucky foods today include fish and abalone (homophones for abundance), nuts and seeds (for wishes for children, specifically sons), tangerines (homophone for good fortune), and foods that rise (like leavened breads, cakes, etc.). Basically, the idea is to start the year with abundant food to portent prosperity in the days ahead.
  • Visit family and friends with auspicious gifts as mentioned above.
  • The Water God's birthday Day 2 (still no doing laundry!)

February 12th—Day 3

Day 3 is the day of Chikou “Red Mouth”, an evil god in Chinese folklore who brings quarrel and litigation.  According to traditional beliefs it’s easy to quarrel with others on this day, so to avoid disharmony people tend to stay home or go to temples to worship deities rather than visit relatives and friends.  Probably a good day to catch up on laundry or those dishes!

Since it’s good luck to buy a new pair of pants (homophone for wealth) during the holiday, maybe do some shopping? Pants must be new, otherwise the wealth mojo has already been imparted or used up. By the way, Cantonese people don’t buy shoes during the new year, as shoes are a homophone for a deep sigh of unhappiness or worry—so of course you don’t want to bring any home!

February 13th - Day 4

  • Visit relatives & friends today--always bearing auspicious gifts and having those red envelopes on hand (we tend to gift red envelopes to unmarrieds under the age of 30, but you can set your own “rule”. Traditional parents tend to gift red envelopes to their children and grandchildren no matter the age).
  • An important day to meditate on what you value, and to envision the year ahead.
  • It’s Sheep Day: the day the creation goddess Nuwa made sheep, so no eating lamb (wearing wool is fine!).

February 14th - Day 5

Today is a super-important day--welcome the God of Wealth!

  • Traditionally, people threw open their windows at midnight, then lit firecrackers or fireworks to draw the god’s attention to the feast they've laid out for him—all in the hope for greater wealth blessings.
  • Firm up your budget and financial plan for the year, then ask the Universe for greater financial security/stability while wearing your new lucky pants!

February 15th - Day 6

  • Today is the day to get back to work in all forms--resume paid work, housework, volunteer opportunities, exercise, and play.
  • It’s the luckiest day to reopen a business too--and do it with a lot of fanfare (firecrackers, banners, lucky couplets) to draw in the prosperity Qi!

Photo of Chinese new year meal with fish and eggs and dumplings

February 16th - Day 7

It’s People's Day-the day the goddess Nuwa created humans, so it's everyone's birthday!

  • Wish each other happy birthday and celebrate with food!
  • Lucky foods to eat today:
    • Egg dessert--whole, boiled eggs in a soupy dessert made with White lotus seeds/Lian zi, Lily bulbs/Bai he, Red dates/Hong zao and rock sugar (try our Bai Mu Er Tang recipe)
    • Raw fish for luck (sushi night!)
    • Dumplings (traditionally shaped like gold ingots and stuffed with abundance!)
    • Duck in all forms (here's our Eight Treasure Duck recipe)
    • 8-Treasure Congee
    • Rainbow platter to “make the wind come alive and the water to rise” 風生水起—basically to stir up lots of positive energy or Qi. This is a super fun dish and ritual where auspicious, colorful foods get tossed together by diners. The components include raw fish (for abundant life), finely shredded lettuce (a homophone for “grow wealth”), shredded celery (a homophone for “diligent wealth”), carrot shreds and corn (represents gold), crushed peanuts (for fertility), and other ingredients can be added for taste, texture and color. A blessing is said as each ingredient is neatly laid out on one large platter. Each person gets a pair of chopsticks and on cue everyone will toss the ingredients vigorously and as high as possible without making too much of a mess—all the while shouting out more blessings. Once the fun is done, enjoy eating this lucky, colorful dish! Watch our fun family video on Instagram!

    February 17th - Day 8

    Today is said to be the birthday of Grain. An auspicious day where good weather can represent a successful harvest season to come.

    • Traditionally villagers would get together to worship and make offerings to various deities, conduct rituals to exorcise evil and to ward-off pandemics and pray together for good weather, bountiful harvests, general prosperity, and peaceful times.
    • Throw a party and serve lots of carbs!

    February 18th - Day 9

    Today is the Jade Emperor's Birthday!

    • Wear jade for luck
    • Being vegetarian today is supposed to bring great merit and longer life.

    Photo of child painting a paper lantern

    February 19th - Day 10

    Today is the birthday of Stone!

    • Don’t do work that "harms" stone (like breaking stone in a quarry) or even using stone-made items, such as mortar and pestle.
    • Go out and admire a mountain, stone sculpture or paint a rock to celebrate!

    February 20th - Day 11

    Known as "Son-in-law’s Day," this day is the day when fathers-in-law traditionally entertain their sons-in-law to ensure the happy marriages of their daughters.

    • Do that or treat your own Dad or Dad-in-law to dinner!

    February 21st - Day 12

    • Traditionally the day to start making the lanterns for the big festival that falls on the 15th day. Lanterns were ornate, with auspicious words and symbols. The lanterns of the educated and wealthy tended to have intricate paintings and poetry.
    • Today various types of lanterns in many different styles are available, whether traditional paper ones lit with candles, cute Hello Kitty and anime-themed ones lit with glo-sticks, and even blow-up Sponge Bob lit with LED lights and complete with a recording of his annoying laugh—whatever floats your boat!
    • It was also the day to prepare fireworks displays for the festival.

    February 22nd - Day 13

    • Today was traditionally a day of Celebration that included lion dances, operas, and other entertainment in both the public squares and in private homes of the wealthy.
    • Some Chinatowns in the U.S. may hold street fairs and performances, but otherwise you can enjoy these fine films for different perspectives on the holiday: “Everything Everywhere All At Once” by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert and “Last Train Home” by Lixin Fan.

    February 23rd - Day 14

    • Celebrations continue; sometimes statues of gods would be paraded out so they could enjoy the festivities too.
    • Tomorrow is the Lantern Festival, the culmination of the Spring Festival, so make/buy “Tang Yuan"-- steamed sweet sticky-rice balls traditionally filled with delicious sesame paste, peanut butter, and/or brown sugar. Modern ones include taro, sweet potato, egg custard, and Japanese mochi is certainly acceptable. Tang Yuan symbolizes wholeness and togetherness.
    • Get/finish those lanterns!

    February 24th - Day 15

    Today is the Lantern Festival and the last day of the holiday. It's also the unofficial Chinese "Valentine's Day" because in olden days it was the one day of the year when unmarried, cloistered, genteel young ladies would be allowed to go out in public (chaperoned) for the chance of admiring and being admired by potential suitors. These young single people would mutually gauge compatibility while answering riddles and contemplating poetry painted on the lanterns.

    • Families and friends get together to celebrate and eat "Tang Yuan” and other auspicious foods. Traditionally a lot of drinking was involved too.
    • Go out for an evening stroll and enjoy the full moon with someone you love!

    Warm wishes for a wonderful year!

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