Junior UX Producer, Dinesh Desikan, takes us through the traditions of Chinese New Year and his experiences celebrating it.

I’m from Malaysia, and it has a large Chinese population, growing up my parents kept up the celebrations they enjoyed when they lived there. We’d generally go to Soho and watch the dragon dance, before hoovering up a proper Chinese banquet! I’m going to explain a bit about Chinese New Year and share some of my experiences.

When is Chinese New Year?

Midnight today marked the start of the new Chinese Lunar Year, which runs from February 12th, 2021 (Chinese lunar New Year Day) until January 31st, 2022. This is the year of the Metal Ox. 

The festivities usually start the day before the new year and continue until the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the new year.   

People born in the Year of the Ox are characterised as diligent and hard-working. They are honest, strong and dependable, with their ability to keep calm making them great leaders.

While Oxen are kind, they find it difficult to understand persuasion and never look to be the centre of attention, which results in their talent being hidden. Their hard-work and patience, however, helps them earn praise and successfully meet their goals.

Strengths: Patient, persistent and cautious

Weaknesses: Stubborn, less-talkative and obstructive

Lucky Colours: white, silver, gold, purple, blue, gray.

Lucky Numbers: 6, 9, and 22.

Lucky Stone: Emerald

According to Chinese astrology, the year of your birth sign is believed to be one of the most unlucky years of your life. It is thought that people in their zodiac year offend Tai Sui, the God of Age, and incur his curse. 

Have a look here to find your Zodiac sign, and beware if the OX is your birth year…

  • Rat: 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972
  • Ox: 2021, 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973
  • Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962 
  • Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963 
  • Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964 
  • Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965 
  • Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966 
  • Sheep: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967 
  • Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968 
  • Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969 
  • Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970 
  • Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971 

Traditions

In preparation for the new year, Chinese people will clean their homes and put up red decorations and lanterns. Celebrations will then officially kick off with a New Year’s Eve family dinner, usually with fish and dumplings being served to encourage prosperity.

Shou Sui, which translates as “after the New Year's Eve dinner”, follows the traditional feast, where families stay awake throughout the night and let off fireworks at midnight to banish evil.

Adults usually give children red packets called Hóngbāo containing money at Chinese New Year, to help them avoid the evil and wish them good health. Also wearing and decorating your house in Red symbolises Good Luck & Prosperity 

Superstitions

There are many superstitions that Chinese people believe in and hence try to avoid to ensure that they have a happy and prosperous New Year. Here are a few I picked out :

  • The broom: If you sweep on this day then your wealth will be swept away too.
  • An empty rice jar: A depleted receptacle may cause grave anxiety as the cessation of cooking during the New Year period is considered to be an ill omen.
  • Monochrome fashion: White or black clothes are barred as these two colours are traditionally associated with mourning.

Two years ago in those heady days when travel was allowed… Me & my girl went to Malaysia during Chinese New Year. The way that Kuala Lumpar was decorated and the celebrations that we witnessed was pretty amazing. 

Every year my Aunty’s neighbours arrange for a Dragon Dance parade to come down their road and perform a dance in their front yard. We were looking enough to be able to get front row seats to it… 

On Chinese New Year itself we had a big family meal that included a Prosperity Salad called Yee Sang. This is made up of loads of different vegetables and a sweet dressing. When it is served everyone stands in a circle around the plate and takes a pair of chopsticks and lifts up bits as high as they can and drops it back down to mix the salad, the higher you lift it, the more prosperity that is said to be bestowed on the group

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Obviously i love food, so i’ll leave you with a traditional Chinese New Year’s dish that a great Chinese-Australian chef made a video on. 

Finally, All that's left to say is! 

恭喜发财 / 恭喜發財 (Gōngxǐ fācái)  

pronounced gong-sshee faa-tseye 
(“Happiness and prosperity!”) 

Header photo by Jeyakumaran Mayooresan on Unsplash.