Chinese Superstition: Cleaning your home prior to the New Year is thought to rid your home of misfortune and welcome prosperity. However, don’t clean on New Year’s day because you’ll sweep away any luck that arrived at the stroke of midnight. In a nutshell: clean your home the day before and/or the day after February 10th (the first day of Chinese New Year 2024) to make sure you have a lucky year ahead…
Growing up with a Chinese mom, I looked forward to Lunar New Year every year. It meant the house would be spruced up with brightly colored decorations, fresh flowers, and I was going to see relatives at big family feasts. Since my mom is no longer here, I cherish the tradition even more and nowadays, I host big dinners at my house.
The Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is China’s premier celebration and celebrated for about two weeks. Here in the states, my mom would celebrate the holiday by hanging up bright red and gold decorations to usher in good fortune, luck and prosperity. Fun Fact: The character ‘Fu’ means good fortune/luck; you hang it upside down so symbolizes luck “pouring down” or “descending on” your home.
Character ‘Fu’ (good fortune/luck):
I placed mine upside down to make sure luck pours down on my home:
This year’s celebration marks the beginning of the Year of the Wood Dragon! It begins on February 10, 2024 and ends on January 28, 2025.
The dragon is one of the luckiest signs on the Chinese zodiac and represents prosperity, authority and good fortune. The 2024 dragon year is said to bring improvement, evolution, and abundance; it would be the perfect time to lay the foundation for long-term success.
When I was a child, we celebrated the holiday on a grand scale, and included large feasts either at our home or at Chinese restaurants in Monterey Park, California. I not only got to see my grandparents and cousins, I also got red envelopes filled with laisee (lucky money).
On some years, my mom would go all out and host extravagant parties, featuring lion dancers and acrobats. Another fun fact: The lion dance incorporates loud gongs, drums, and fireworks because it’s believed the loud noises chase away (scare off) evil spirits and negativity.
Why do so many people wear red and gold for the Chinese New Year?
The hues of red and gold are emblematic of prosperity and luck.
Fruits like tangerines, kumquats, and oranges are considered to be symbols of good fortune and joy. During family get togethers, they are popular gifts, along with fresh flowers like orchids, bamboo plants, and narcissus (aka Water Fairy Flowers).
Donning red or brightly colored attire aligns with the festive spirit, symbolizing luck and a fresh beginning for the New Year. My mom would always say, “Make sure you wear red and if it’s new, that’s even better!” New, red clothes in particular are a sign of new hope and beginnings.
Red Envelopes aka ‘laisee’
The tradition of distributing Red Envelopes (laisee) filled with crisp cash to children and unmarried adults is a gesture of good luck. As a child, I would get small amounts of money, but as I got older, the amount became more generous.
Upon marriage, one graduates to giving instead of receiving these envelopes, marking a new phase of responsibility and generosity. Now that I’m married, I’m participating in this tradition. Even though my husband’s adult children did not grow up celebrating Chinese New Year, I think it’s fun to share it with them…and trust me, they definitely embrace receiving the laisee 😉
What exactly is a Tray of Togetherness?
Another one of my favorite traditions is the Tray of Togetherness. My mom had a beautiful black lacquered one from her mom (my Pau Pau) and she would always fill it to the brim with dried fruits, candies, and nuts.
A Tray of Togetherness is a sweet tradition that’s all about sharing love and celebrating togetherness with family and friends. The platter has six or eight small compartments (the number 6 symbolizes luck and eight, fortune). Whether it’s round or octagonal, each tray snugly holds snacks that symbolize luck, happiness, prosperity, fertility and abundance…all the good stuff.
Sharing a Tray of Togetherness with loved ones is like saying, “Eat some sweet treats so you have a sweet year ahead!” I love the idea that grabbing something from the tray is more than just a snack, with each bite it’s a wish for prosperity, good fortune, or any of those heartwarming things we hope for ourselves and our loved ones.
My all-time favorite sweet treat on the tray: Dried Candied Lotus Seeds! They symbolize fertility and abundance and they are only available at Chinese markets during the new year. As a child, I would forego eating anything else on the tray and instead, eat all of the lotus seeds before anyone else could grab some. These days, since I’m an adult, I’ve learned to practice self-control (well…TBH, I buy two containers…one to share and one just for me 😉).
Happy Chinese New Year!