Chinese New Year: traditions and customs of the Land of the Rising Sun


It is hard to imagine a country where New Year is cherished more than in China. And it is not surprising, as people celebrate this holiday here twice – according to the Gregorian calendar and according to the Eastern (lunar) calendar. This particular feature of Chinese culture sets it apart from most other countries.

Traditional Chinese New Year has numerous colorful and mysterious rituals. The important symbols of the holiday are dragons and lions, depicted on the costumes and masks of dancers. Red ribbons and lanterns on houses, dumplings on the festive table and red envelopes with money as gifts for children – yes, Chinese New Year is quite different from the familiar holiday for many.
New Year in China lasts a whole 15 days and covers the entire country. It is truly a breathtaking spectacle in terms of beauty and scale, which attracts guests from all corners of the world. Chinese culture and its traditions leave unforgettable impressions, and the vibrant and colorful festive events remain in the memories for a long time.

History of Chinese New Year Celebration

It is believed that the celebration of New Year began with one of the Chinese emperors who ruled more than 4,000 years ago. Once, he gathered his ministers to pay homage to heaven and earth. Since then, this day has been considered the first day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar.

Another legend tells that at the beginning of each new year the Chinese had to hide from a monster named Nian (which translates from Chinese as “Year”). It was believed that he appeared on the first day of the holiday in order to ravage all settlements: eat all the livestock and harvested crops and even a couple of peasants. The Chinese believed that if they left food at the entrance, Nian would not touch them. They also believed that Nian was afraid of red color, loud noises and fire. Although the legend is ancient, the traditions are still alive today: before New Year celebration the Chinese decorate their homes with red lanterns and whistles, set off fireworks and generously set festive tables.
It is also clear why the Chinese love the color red. As the legend says, Nian was once scared off by a child wearing red clothing and did not abduct them.
Of course, in the modern world, no monsters descend to the earth, but the Chinese themselves happily parade dragons and lions through the streets. For the Chinese people the dragon symbolizes a good beginning and the Chinese nation as a whole, while the lion represents power and greatness.

The most interesting facts about Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year significantly differs from European in its traditions and customs. The Chinese make every effort to please the symbol of the year and pass down centuries-old traditions and beliefs from generation to generation. Here are some of the most interesting ones:

  • Chinese New Year does not have an exact date – it is celebrated on the second new moon after the winter solstice. People prepare for it in advance and celebrate for at least two weeks.
  • During the New Year the Chinese celebrate the Spring Festival. The cold days give way, and the people prepare for something new: buy new clothes, tidy up their homes and make plans.
  • The Chinese love red decorations. Red paper on windows and doors, red lanterns and garlands made of chili peppers – this abundance of color will surely scare away any monster.
  • It is a tradition to give children red envelopes with money. The Chinese believe that this helps bless the younger generation for a lucky year.
  • There are always many dumplings on the festive table. They symbolize saying goodbye to the past, as well as wealth and happiness in the New Year.
  • During the New Year the Chinese forgive all debts. This custom gives everyone a chance to spend the holidays in peace and is an indicator of mutual support. The Chinese believe that people who demand repayment of a debt can bring misfortune upon themselves and others.
  • The Chinese do not clean their homes during the New Year holidays. They believe that along with the garbage they can also get rid of good luck, so they forget about cleaning until the fifth day of the new year.
    It is forbidden to visit the wife’s family on the first day of the New Year. There is a belief that visiting parents on this day can bring discord to the family. However, it is necessary to visit the wife’s family on the second day of the New Year – to express respect and congratulate them.
  • These are just a few of the interesting traditions and customs associated with Chinese New Year. It is a time of joy, celebration, and the beginning of something new in Chinese culture.

No doubt that on the largest scale Chinese New Year is celebrated in China itself. However, the holiday is also officially celebrated in Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and Mauritius – its widespread popularity is due to the presence of Chinese communities around the world.
But to truly experience the traditions of the holiday and immerse oneself in the atmosphere of Chinese New Year it is best to visit China. Which cities host the most vibrant and unforgettable celebrations?

Beijing: Meeting of the Year of the Green Wooden Dragon

The capital of China offers many bright entertainments during New Year celebrations. The most interesting of them is New Year at Tiananmen Square. Fireworks, traditional performances and a great mood – here you will find all the attributes of a real holiday.

Hong Kong: Bright Lights and Magic

Fans of the festive atmosphere will definitely enjoy Hong Kong. There is everything here for a festive mood: fireworks, dragon and lion parades, as well as an abundance of traditional cuisine on the city streets.

Shanghai: New Year fairs and celebrations

If you love noisy celebrations, then you should definitely go to Shanghai. New Year’s fairs and bright light shows await you. It is best to enjoy the festive events and concerts on the Bund waterfront.

Sichuan: Tibetan New Year

Tibetan New Year in Sichuan is a unique experience for lovers of everything unusual. The city residents and guests can attend traditional religious ceremonies and cheerful parades with colorful costumes and masks. The city attracts a large number of tourists every year, and it is not surprising: visiting here at least once is definitely worth it for everyone.

Eastern China: Winter holidays in nature

If you prefer peaceful holidays in the fresh air, then you should definitely visit the eastern provinces of China. Here you will find a variety of winter activities and, of course, traditional festive celebrations.

Tips for travel planning

Chinese New Year is the largest seasonal migration in the world. Millions of Chinese people travel within the country to visit their relatives and friends. Despite this, it’s definitely worth seeing the real Chinese New Year at least once.

To ensure a comfortable trip, take note of a few tips:

  • Plan your accommodation in advance. However, be prepared for the fact that the cost of living will be noticeably higher compared to other periods.
  • Chinese people mainly prefer cash, so consider exchanging currency. During the holidays, entire China is on vacation, so don’t expect to find even one working bank.
  • Keep in mind that many popular internet services are blocked in China. Therefore, it’s better to install a good VPN on your phone in advance.
  • China is incredibly vast, so different parts of the country may have different climatic conditions. It’s important to check the weather in the part of China you plan to visit in advance.

And most importantly, apply for a Chinese visa in advance. On average, obtaining a visa takes 14 to 20 days, which means you have time to plan an unforgettable trip and prepare for it properly – Chinese New Year 2024 will begin on February 10, and it will be celebrated for a whole two weeks.

So it’s time to start exploring the sights and create a travel plan, while the specialists at The Visa Services take care of the documents.


Q: What to bring from China as a souvenir?

A: The first thing worth bringing back from China is, of course, tea. The best tea can be found at the tea market or tea street. Be sure to pay attention to Chinese silk as well. Keep in mind that each city in China is famous for its products: Hong Kong – fur coats, Hainan – pearls, and Taiwan – electronics. Therefore, every tourist here will find something special for himself.

Q: Is it true that it is better not to leave tips in Chinese restaurants?

A: Yes. Chinese people believe that the service charge is already included in the price of the dish. And tips in Chinese culture are associated with bribery or sympathy for the poor.

Q: Is it possible to pay for purchases and services with a bank card?

A: Only in big cities. China has its own national payment system – UnionPay. Because of this, there may be problems with paying for purchases or withdrawing cash. One way to avoid payment difficulties is to install the messaging app WeChat and link it to your bank card. So you will be able to make payments practically everywhere.

Q: Is it possible to communicate with Chinese people in English?

A: It’s great luck to meet a Chinese person who speaks English. Therefore, if you don’t speak Chinese, be prepared for a language barrier. It won’t be a problem when it comes to transportation and public places since most of the information is duplicated in English. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to ask the locals for directions – it’s better to show them the place on a map or use a translator.

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