Chinese New Year Traditions

by Michelle Chu of Sift and Simmer

Growing up as a 1st generation Chinese Canadian, Michelle draws inspiration from her childhood celebrating Chinese New Year with family, traditional foods and customs. Each subject photographed contains inherent symbolism and is the creative basis of Michelle’s work. Here is a glimpse into a Canadian Chinese New Year celebration, with a focus on homemade food eaten during the festivities.

Red and gold are considered auspicious colours in Chinese culture and especially during Chinese New Year. Preparations begin beforehand by cleaning and tidying the home. (It is bad luck to clean on New Year’s as it is believed good luck will be swept away). Red lanterns are hung up for the holidays, and the lion dance is a festive upbeat performance to bring happiness and good luck. Brand new clothing is worn.

Chinese New Year is a time to celebrate with a feast of various foods that symbolize health, wealth and prosperity. Food that is eaten during Chinese New Year usually consists of homemade dumplings, lotus seed buns, and glutinous rice balls (“tang yuan”) which are round and represent completeness and an abundance of wealth. Long, uncut noodles are eaten to represent longevity.

Firecrackers are lit to scare off any evil spirits, and red envelopes (“ang pao”) containing money are given by family members to children. It is considered good luck to give more so that blessings will return two-fold and that prosperity will continue the rest of the year. This is the spirit of Chinese New Year – a happy celebration of family, life, unity, and togetherness.

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