Thousands of years of practices left the Chinese people with an incredibly rich culture, among the most important are the Chinese New Year Traditions. There are hundreds of boons and banes during the festival, depending on sects and geographic differences. Other than mainland China, culture is also nurtured and formed in countries and administrative zones with big Chinese population.

It’s extremely difficult to touch on all of the traditions. However, we compile 3 from China, Malaysia and Hong Kong here.

China: The Reunion Dinner

In mainland China, Chinese Lunar New Year is a celebration for the arrival of Spring. It’s also called Spring Festival. For the Chinese, the Reunion Dinner is the most important meal of the year, normally eaten during the last day of the Chinese Lunar Year. It symbolizes unity and family, as well as the passing of the year. However, do you know about the origins of this tradition?

It originates from an ancient myth: a long long time ago, it was said that a savage beast “Nian” came into town to disrupt order, every year at midnight during the last day of winter. The villagers were fearful of the beast but there was no one who could curb the animal. They could only leave town every year to run away from damage. One day, word went around that the beast was scared of red colour, loud noise and bright fire. Hence, during the last night of the year, people hung red colour paper all over the place, lit bright fire and gathered in groups. At midnight, the villagers lit fireworks and fire crackers. “Nian” got so scared that it ran away into the woods and never to come back. To celebrate this victory, the tradition of gathering at the verge of a new year is preserved to this date.

Reunion Dinner

Steamboat is often served for CNY reunion dinners.


Malaysia (and Singapore): Loh Sang, the Prosperity Toss

For many Malaysians, Loh Sang has been around since the dawn of time. However, it wasn’t a custom for the Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese to toss to a plate of Chinese salad while wishing out loud, until the 1960s. It is widely speculated that the Yee Sang (Chinese salad) was brought in from Guangzhou cuisine in China and introduced in a restaurant in Seremban as early as 1947. The fresh, flavourful salad that includes various finely chopped colourful vegetables and nuts gained fame. To boast sales, the then famous quad Star chefs squad further promoted the dish in their restaurants during the festive period. It is particularly well perceived in Malaya and Singapore at that time because of a big Chinese merchant community.

Since then, people adapted the custom with glee. Loh Sang is now an integrated part of our Chinese New Year celebration. In fact, we did Loh Sang twice this year!

Loh Sang, The Prosperity Toss

This year, we did Loh Sang twice preceding the holidays.


Hong Kong: Lai Xi (Red Money Packet)

The tradition of giving red money packet during Chinese New Year is rock-solid across different Chinese communities. However, it takes a bit of different form / meaning in each of them. For example, it is called Hongbao (red packets) in mainland China, Angpaw (red packet, in Hokkien dialect) in Malaysia/Singapore and Lai Xi in Hong Kong. The difference lies in the language used – the Hong Kong people mostly speak Cantonese language.

The custom of elders passing youngsters Lai Xi during the festive is very popular in Hong Kong. This also relates to a language pun – pronunciation Lai Xi “利是” closely resembles another term “利事”, which means smooth sailing. Elders bestow this blessing upon their children so as they have a smooth and successful year.

Do you know that in 2016, RMB 1.6 trillion is injected to cope with the surge in cash demand for CNY?

2016 CNY Statistics

Credits: BBC