The Chinese New Year (also known as the Spring Festival) may be quite unknown to you. If so, do not worry. From Exoticca we want to explain the most important Chinese New Year traditions. But not only that, but we would also like to point out what are the most obvious differences with our Christmas. Although in the end, both traditions are very similar. Travel to China in spring and experience Chinese New Year for yourself!
Origins and beliefs of these two celebrations
While Christmas is a religious festival connected with Christianity, the celebration of the Chinese New Year has more to do with the old agrarian society of the country. When the Chinese used to pray for an abundant crop. Later on, some relatively new religious practices, such as Buddhism also became a part of this festival.
Chinese New year traditions regarding legends and myths
Nian is a Chinese monster very well known for its habit of visiting small villages. During this time of the year, it used to feed on eat cattle and children. The only way to banish this monster was through red objects and loud noises.
The legends of Christmas are much kinder. Many of them are related to the Catholic tradition and others to the generous Santa Claus. You can actually meet him if you happen to travel to Lapland at the right time.
Chinese New year traditions regarding Dates and duration
Traditionally the Chinese New Year lasts about two weeks in total and is celebrated in late January and early February. The specific date varies each year. Western Christmas is celebrated at the end of December and the change of year is the 31st of that month.
Christmas is a Christian holiday. The typical rite is to attend mass or some form of service. people sing Christmas carols to remember the birth of Christ. And also to honour the family and the celebration itself.
The Chinese New Year is celebrated with Dances of the Lion and Dragon in street parades. Lions and dragons are acrobats wearing colourful costumes. The dances are noisy in order to drive out evil spirits and bring prosperity and luck for next year.
Chinese New year traditions regarding Food
During Christmas in the West, typical food includes turkey, nuts, sweets and cakes. In general, we spend hours around the dining table with a lot of food and drinks. We enjoy both with family and friends.
In China, popular foods during the New Year are due to the symbolic meaning of their name or appearance.
For example, fish is always present during Chinese New Year meals, because the Chinese word for fish, yu, has the same sound as the Chinese word for abundance. The Chinese believe that fish consumption during this period means that you will be prosperous in the new year.
In the West, toys are common gifts for children. Among adults, gifts are more likely to be related to food, drinks or clothing. During the Chinese New Year, however, the most common present is a red envelope full of money, called hongbao. The adults give them to the children. Adults will exchange fruit baskets, sweets, alcohol, tea and other similar items
Chinese New year traditions regarding Colors and decorations
Green, red and gold are the most common colours of Christmas in the West. We decorate the streets, houses and shop windows with them. In China, red and gold are also the most typical colours. They represent prosperity and happiness.
You will also see these colours in houses and streets, with Chinese New Year ornaments made of red paper.
The flowers also represent the Chinese New Year festivities. While in the West we put Christmas trees during the Christmas season. In China, you can find the Chinese Kumquat trees. Because the Chinese ideogram for the kumquat contains the word ‘gold’, which represents wealth.
Chinese New year traditions regarding Fireworks
Firecrackers and fireworks are thrown so that the noise is as loud as possible in China, in order to scare away the monster Nian. During Western Christmas, on the other hand, the atmosphere is generally quieter, with bells and carols. In many places, the approach to parties is also quite discreet.
Chinese New year traditions regarding the family
In Chinese and Western cultures, the importance of being with the family plays a central role during these celebrations. And being at home is an important part of it.
The only difference here is that going home during Chinese New Year is so important to the Chinese people that it generates the largest human migration of the year. Millions of people leave cities on trains, planes and buses to reach their families in the countryside.
Would you like to visit China during the Chinese New Year celebrations? Contact us and we will help you organise the best holiday you are able to dream of.