The Lunar New Year is arriving in less than a month. It’s a tradition that the Chinese have followed for generation after generation. There are many traditional customs that Chinese people have to follow while celebrating the Lunar New Year. Along with these traditional customs come some really great benefits. Here are three of the best parts of the Lunar New Year:
- Lucky money
Seniors and elder members of the family typically give children and unmarried young people “lucky money.” Elders put money in a red envelope and give it to young people as a way of wishing them good luck. When I was a kid, I was extremely excited about going out with my parents during the New Year season, because visiting relatives and parents’ friends allowed me to collect a huge amount of money. It was an income season for me, as I would save the money and spend it buying my own stuff in the next year.
- The Lunar New Year food
The New Year is the time when the whole family gathers together. The challenge of serving dinner to a large family has been always been mothers’ worries, — one that they have overcome it in various ways depending on geographic region. Southern and northern China have diverse styles of food preparation on the New Year’s Eve based on their own eating cultures. People in the South serve a big bowl feast or to say, Poon choi, which is a mixed plate with different food in one large bowl. People from the North gather their family members and make dumplings together. I am from Southern China, and my family follows Cantonese culture when celebrating the New Year. We have Poon choi on New Year’s Eve. There are many dishes in one bowl, such as shrimps, chicken, roasted ducks, oysters, pork and all kinds of veggies. People either eat Poon choi in a restaurant or buy a large bowl to eat at home. The bowls are extremely heavy and some of them even serve up to 12-15 people. Poon choi is still the first choice for Cantonese, since the great variety of dishes in a bowl can meet preferences of all family members at once.
- Days off
For such a serious and important festival, employers usually give Chinese people more than seven days national holiday during the Lunar New Year. It is the only festival with a long holiday in China, so more than half of the population in China makes plans to go home. People need to reserve the bus and train ticket at least one month in advance. Around 20 days before New Year’s Eve, college students and people who work outside (especially the lower income workers) would start to squeeze into the train and bus terminals and depart from the main cities and back to their hometowns. Every year, there is a lot of news about the transports during the Chinese New Year. There is a huge volume of passenger transport; it could be counted in hundreds of millions of people. The city I live in becomes very empty during this period. A little bit too quiet, but I kind of liked it. Things would be less competitive during the holiday, so I would always go to tourist sites that are usually full of people, and also go to the famous restaurants that normally require reservations during the year.
It is my fourth year not celebrating the Lunar New Year in China. However, other than the food, I don’t see many differences between celebrating New Year’s in the United States and in China. Thanks to technological advancement, I can still get the electronic lucky money from my parents and relatives via phone. Still, Lunar New Year is my favorite festival.