Chinese Lunar New Year, a traditional festival for family reunion and the most important festival of the year in China, starts from late in the last month on the lunar calendar and lasts until the 15th. of the first month. The upcoming holiday for this year’s festival will run from January 24th to 30th, with new year’s day itself falling on January 25th.
People in Guangdong observe many customs during the festival. Some are related to specific dates on the lunar calendar, such as spring cleaning and visiting a flower fair. Want to shake off the ‘tourist’ tag and blend in? Brush-up on these customs and traditions to fit right in in Guangdong.
A boy cleans the glass door. [Photo: Dong Tianjian]
On this day, Guangdong people often stay at home to do ‘spring cleaning’, cleaning out the whole house - clothes, bedclothes and utensils - in order to get rid of bad luck and to ready the home for ringing in the new year.
Expats showcase the Spring Festival couplets and Chinese character ‘fu’ (福) during a new year celebration in Guangzhou.?[Photo: Xiao Xiong]
Paste Spring Festival couplets
After the spring cleaning and before new year’s day
Chinese people usually paste Spring Festival couplets on both sides of the doorway to their home, to express their wishes and greetings for the new year. Other New Year paintings, portraits of the door god and god of fortune and papercuttings are very popular as well. Guangdong people also paste Chinese character ‘fu’ (福) or ‘ji’ (吉) (literal meaning ‘blessing’ and ‘auspiciousness’), on flowerpots, vases, potted orange trees, cupboards and the like.
People buy flowers at a flower fair in Guangzhou. [Photo: Wu Weihong]
People in Guangdong have some very specific traditions about buying flowers for the new year. Parents and children usually buy kumquats which symbolize both good luck and prosperity, businesspeople would choose vermillion orange or bellflower symbolic of riches, while single men and women prefer peach blossoms which is said to signify romance.
An expat (L2)?enjoys New Year’s Eve dinner with a local family in Guangzhou. [Photo: Huang Xuhao]
New Year’s Eve dinner
On this day, people put on their new clothes, pay respects to their ancestors and household gods making wishes for the fortune of future generations. In the evening, the family dines together. During this New Year’s Eve dinner they enjoy good foods such as chicken, fish and rice cake that all have their own auspicious connotations. After dinner, people stay up late to greet the New Year. The young greet the elderly who will give them Hong Bao (lucky money in a red envelopes). Guangzhouers also visit the flower fair on New Year’s Eve with family and friends.
A boy carries several oranges?in his arms. [Photo: Cai Huafeng]
Pay a New Year call
The first several days of January
This is the time when relatives and friends exchange greetings and visit each other. When paying a visit to relatives and friends, people usually bring some big oranges, and the host will also gift oranges too.
Founder and chairman of Tencent Pony Ma Huateng?(L) in a red Tang suit gives out Hong Bao to his employees at Tencent's headquarters in Shenzhen. [Photo: Zhu Hongbo]
Give out Hong Bao
Before Lantern Festival
Apart from giving Hong Bao to family members, married people in Guangdong would also give red envelopes to unmarried ones. This is particularly popular in the workplace before Lantern Festival. The money stuffed in each envelope is not much, 5 or 10 RMB, but it is a token of good wishes. It's the thought that counts.
In recent years, the Hong Bao tradition has taken a new form in China. A large number of people both send and receive Hong Bao on the popular instant messaging platform WeChat which has led the digital lucky money craze since it created it in 2014. It also introduced new features such as allowing users to add well wishes and stickers to make a more customized red envelope.
People visit a lantern show in Shenzhen. [Photo: Lu Li]
Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month on the lunar calendar, the first night to see a full moon which is a symbol of happiness. During the festival, there are an abundance of traditions, like beating drums, lion dances, guessing lantern riddles, watching lanterns and fireworks. You can visit lantern shows in many parks around Guangzhou, such as Culture Park and Yuexiu Park.
Author: Monica Liu
Editor: Simon Haywood