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Daily Chinese New Year Festival Guide

During the New Year holidays, streets are alive with festive events and activities. The atmosphere of celebration lasts until the end of the 15th day. Here is a guide to what should happen each day:

Day 1: Chinese New Year’s Day

What to do:

Pray to the gods at home and in temples. Visit or call senior members of extended families, neighbors, bosses, and business partners to wish them a happy New Year.

What to eat:

In Northern China, people eat dumplings, while those in Southern China eat 年糕 (nián gāo), a chewy cake made from glutinous rice flour. In Taiwan, some people only eat vegetarian dishes for breakfast.

Day 2

What to do:

Married daughters visit their parents with their husbands and children to have lunch. Bring gifts and red packets for the children.

What to eat:

Noodles are eaten on the second day, because they are like threads, and eating them symbolizes threads that connect you to money and good fortune.

Red packet envelopes. (Image: Monica Song)
Red packet envelopes. (Image: Monica Song)

Day 3: 赤口 ‘chì kou’ day

What to do:

赤口 (chì kǒu) means a day for arguments. So people prefer to stay home instead of visit. Some restaurants open this day, and traditional lion dancers will visit and collect red packets from owners and guests for good luck.

What to eat:

合子 (hé zǐ), a type of meat or vegetable pie that is said to bring wealth, is eaten on this day.

Day 4

What to do:

The God of Wealth is coming back from Heaven today. People hold religious services to welcome him. In the past, if an employer wanted to fire someone, he would invite everyone to pray with him except the person he was firing. This was a hint for that person to leave voluntarily.

What to eat:

烙餅 (lào bǐng) is a round, flaky, fried pancake. Having lào bǐng with eggs symbolizes reunion.

Day 5: 破五 ‘pò wu’ or 送窮 ‘sòng qióng’ day

What to do:

破 (pò) means break and 五 (wǔ) means five, referring to the 5th day of the New Year. The taboos observed within the first four can now be broken. To drive out misfortune and poverty, people get up at dawn, light firecrackers, and enjoy a huge feast.

(Image: via pixabay.com / CC0 1.0)
To drive out misfortune and poverty, people get up at dawn, light firecrackers, and enjoy a huge feast. (Image: via pixabay.com / CC0 1.0)

People offer prayers to the God of Wealth on the fifth day, which is his birthday. 送窮 (sòng qióng) means sending poverty away. So on the 5th day, people clean the house, and take out the garbage created during the first four days. For Cantonese people, sòng qióng day is on the 3rd day of the Chinese calendar.

Stores in Taiwan reopen, while those in China usually reopen on the 6th day. Some store owners may choose an alternate date to reopen based upon Chinese astrology.

Day 6: 送窮 ‘sòng qióng’ day in Beijing

What to do:

For people in Beijing, 送窮 (sòng qióng) is today. Businesses in China usually reopen. Store owners light firecrackers. Every family also uses this day to dump the trash, meaning poverty has left.

Day 7: 人日 ‘rén rì’ day of humans

What to Do:

According to Chinese myths, humans were created on the 7th day after God created the world, so today is known as the day of humans, 人日 (rén rì). People pay attention to respecting each other and their elders. Parents don’t scold kids, and prisoners aren’t to be executed.

What to eat:

Since today is the birthday of the creation of humans, people eat birthday noodles.

Day 8

According to Chinese myth, grain was created on the 8th day after God created the world, so this is the day of grains, 谷日 (gǔ rì). If the day is sunny, the harvest will be good this year.

(Image: via pixabay.com / CC0 1.0)
If the day is sunny, the harvest will be good this year. (Image: via pixabay.com / CC0 1.0)

Day 9

Today is the birthday of the Jade Emperor, the head of all gods in Taoism. People worship him with prayers for a good harvest in the coming year.

Day 10

This is the birthday of stones. People worship the God of Stone. On this day, people don’t use any tools made of stone.

Day 11

It is the day for fathers-in-law to host their sons-in-law with leftovers from the meal of the ninth day’s worship.  In rural areas of Guangzhou, children from different villages will play a game that uses stones. The village of the winners will have good luck all year.

Day 12

In Taiwan, this is the day for fathers to invite their married daughters back home for a family visit. The Lantern Festival is approaching. People start to prepare for the festival today.

Day 13

After days of eating heavy meals, today the meals are lighter. People will pray to 關羽 (guān yǔ), the Chinese God of War, for success and wealth today.

Day 14

By today, all the preparation for the Lantern Festival should be ready.

Day 15: Lantern Festival, last day of the Chinese New Year Festival

What to do:

The 15th day of the Chinese calendar, also known as the Lantern Festival, is the final day of Chinese New Year celebrations. People will worship their ancestors, along with legendary Emperor Yao.

Carrying Chinese paper lanterns and solving riddles written on lanterns are traditions passed down from generation to generation. Many cities hold large-scale lantern fairs for the Lantern Festival. Most fairs start before the festival and end on or after it.

(Image: via pixabay.com / CC0 1.0)
Many cities hold large-scale lantern fairs for the Lantern Festival. (Image: via pixabay.com / CC0 1.0)

Going to lantern fairs with friends and relatives is a custom. Releasing floating lanterns into the air during the Lantern Festival is getting popular in China and Taiwan.

What to eat:

People in North China have 元宵 (yuán xiāo) on the Lantern Festival, whereas those in the south have 汤圆 (tāng yuán).

Both are types of glutinous rice balls made with different fillings and methods. Both symbolize reunion.

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