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Chinese New Year Customs

The Chinese New Year is commemorated with 15 days of festivities. Government offices and businesses may be closed for much of this time as many people will use their vacation or sick leave to travel back home. Because the date is determined by the Chinese lunisolar calendar, it is not the same as the Gregorian Calendar New Year, and will fall on different days of the Western calendar each year.

The preparations begin well before the New Year with a thorough house cleaning to sweep out bad luck, new purchases of clothing and presents, and the preparation of celebratory foods. Homes are decorated and the characters for “happiness,” “wealth,” and “longevity.” On the eve of the New Year, families and relatives gather for a great feast, culminating with an abundance of popping firecrackers at midnight.

On New Years Day, children receive money in lucky red envelops.  People greet each other with “Happy New Year,” and good wishes for prosperity, longevity, and health. Festivities continue for two more weeks and culminate with the festival of lanterns on the 15th day.

The days are celebrated with ritual performances of colorful lion dancers, believed to bring good luck to the shops and households they visit. For good luck, people feed the lions money in red envelops. Shop owners make them pluck lettuce from a high place as "pluck," "vegetable," and "fortune" are homonyms.  The lion scatters the lettuce and oranges (gold) for a fresh lucky start to the year (see 2017 Year of the Rooster). 

The following greetings are said on or soon after the first day of their New Year - not before:

 Gong Xi Fa Cai! (Wishing you Prosperity)

Gung Hay Fat Choy! (Wishing you Prosperity)

(The first is Mandarin, the second Cantonese)

Xin Nien Kuai Le! (New Year Happiness)

Sun Nin Fy Lok! (New Year Happiness)

(The first is Mandarin, the second Cantonese)



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