Many people with roots in Asia can expect to celebrate the New Year at least twice a year. Often referred to as “Chinese New Year,” Lunar New Year is tied to the traditional Chinese calendar, and tends to fall around late January to early February each year. It’s celebrated across Asia and around the world, from Vietnam and Indonesia to Korea and, of course, China.
Over the weeklong celebration, it’s customary for families to reunite in their hometowns, host a banquet, watch parades, set off fireworks, and more. There are plenty of traditions that still hold to this day, many of which are deeply rooted in Chinese culture and values. Here are some of the Lunar New Year traditions that we think everyone can learn from.
Tidy up (and know when to take a break)
Netflix’s new Marie Kondo series may have everyone in a tizzy right now, but in China, the cleaning craze has been a yearly custom for hundreds of years. Take the time to restore order in your home, clearing out the old in order to make room for the new.
Equally as important is knowing when to step back and take a break. Once New Year’s Eve comes and goes, it’s considered unlucky to clean during the following week, as it risks “sweeping out the good luck” along with the bad. Whether or not you subscribe to the superstition, it’s as good an excuse as any to kick up your feet, relax, and revel in a job well done.
Treat yourself right
New Year’s is quite possibly the best time to cultivate a new you — both inside and out. Many Chinese make a point of buying a new outfit and visiting a beauty salon, to look and feel their best for New Year’s Eve. Wearing something red, an auspicious color in Chinese culture, is also a must. And if you haven’t yet joined in Thrive Global’s Microstep Month, choosing a small, actionable step to make meaningful changes in your life, now is a great time.
Put family first
During the Lunar New Year, family is priority number one. It’s no coincidence that the largest mass migration in human history is caused by millions of people travelling over many miles to gather together with family. It’s customary during this holiday to take the time to visit relatives in order of importance, starting with the oldest living relatives closest to you — in many cases, grandparents. In any case, it marks a great time to reconnect with family near and far, young and old, and let them know you’re thinking of them.
If the prospect of a family reunion causes you more anxiety than excitement, you’re not alone either. Pressure can be immense over the New Year for young Chinese, so much so that people hire boyfriends or girlfriends to avoid relatives’ probing questions. (For more on how to stay calm during family holiday gatherings, read this.)
One of the most prevalent symbols of Chinese New Year is the hongbao, or red envelope, that is given to family and friends. Naturally, these traditions are getting a digital-age update; online hongbao borrow Chinese New Year imagery but are sent year-round to family, friends, and even strangers in messaging apps like WeChat.
Though it is a giving season, it’s easy to forget that gifts don’t need to be monetary or limited to your inner circle. Make an unexpected gesture to someone you love, or pay it forward by donating to those in need.
… and pay your debts
Keeping debt low is always wise, and in China, New Year’s is a time to clear up any outstanding debts you may have. If you have extra income this season, make a dent in credit card payments, or repay loans and favors from friends or family. Just make sure you have enough left over for those red envelopes.
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