A crash course guide to ten Chinese New Year traditions

Chinese New Year Gang photo by Josh Evnin via creative commons

Gung hay fat choy, dear VO readers, or best wishes and congratulations. By now, you may have clued in as to why there is a peculiar increase in Chinese food products at your local grocery store and as to why three of last week's flyers were red-themed and advertised heavily by Chinese products with a lot of 8's in the price markdowns.

Tomorrow is the first day of the Chinese New Year, which makes today, Chinese New Year's Eve. 

Needlefelted Rabbit photo by TinyApartmentCrafts via creative commons

2011 marks the year of the rabbit. Under the rabbit zodiac, it is predicted that this year will bring in a lot of luck for everyone. Especially for those born under the rabbit zodiac (1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011).

According to, the Chinese Year of the Rabbit promises to bring political upheaval from restless youth and sex scandals for the amorous.

For those who are not familiar with some of the traditions that surround Chinese New Year, feed your curiosities and head down to T&T Supermarket to be immersed in the festive specials and strange foods. 

I identify myself more as Canadian than Chinese because I was born in Canada. But I regard this time of year as the one day that all Chinese, new immigrants to first-, second-, third-, and fourth generation Canadians of Chinese heritage, can bond despite linguistic and cultural differences.

So behold, dear reader, here is a guide for you. A guide to familiarize you with ten Chinese New Year traditions that have been passed onto me from the matriarchs of my family and now, to you.

1. Clean the home.

mr. clean photo by D'Arcy Norman via creative commons

One of the better excuses my mother had to get my brother and I to help her clean the house was the new year. Forget the other 364 days.   Having a clean home ready for the first day of the New Year is a superstition to abide by, if you want to scrub away last year's bad luck from your house to make way for luck and prosperity in the new year. As the superstition goes, doing any sort of cleaning tomorrow is bad because the good energy and luck may be accidently washed away.

2.  Wear some red.

Chinese New Year Gang photo by Josh Evnin via creative commons

Red is the colour of choice this time of year. Every conversation I've been having with my mother on the phone for the past two weeks always ends with, "Don't forget to wear some new red cloths" or, "Don't forget to buy some new red clothes". Wearing red clothes on the first day of the new year is regarded as a highly symbolic way to ensure that the rest of the year will be full of good fortune and joy. In Chinese folklore, red has positive connotations and is symbolic of success, happiness, loyalty, honour, and love. For those who were born under the dragon zodiac, like me, it is regarded as good fortune to wear new red clothes, because next year is the year of the dragon.

3. Pomelos, tangerines, mandarins, oh my. 

Goldilocks photo by John Loo via creative commons

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