Chinese New Year

Xīnnián kuàilè, shēntǐ jiànkāng, gōngxǐ fācái, hóngbāo ná lái. “Happy New Year, have good health, be happy and prosperous and bring on the red envelope.”

January 28th, 2017 marked Chinese New Year. The festivities that occur do not last for just one day like the typical new year celebration in America. It does include waiting until midnight, but just about everything else is differnet. Chinese New Year lasts for fifteen days. Houses are cleaned, new clothes and shoes are prepared, and hair is cut, all in preparation for the new year approaching. This holiday is a combination of rich history, ancient superstitions, and meaningful traditions.


Red is the main color of Chinese New Year. Red lanterns, banners, couplets, and scrolls are put on and around doors and windows. Gold is often seen as well throughout the decorations. Both colors are believed to bring prosperity and luck to all. “The adults give hong bao,” explains Daiyao Zhang (‘17). Hong bao are red envelopes of money, typically given to children. The most significant part of this tradition is not the money inside, but the red envelope. It represents sending happiness and luck towards the person’s future.

This year is the year of the rooster so if your zodiac animal is the rooster, this year is not your lucky year. Eric Ai has lived in Taiwan his whole life, taking part in many other traditions. He explained that “nothing is ever done in 4’s. 4 sounds like ‘death’ and we do not want any deaths in the coming year.” However, anything pertaining to the number 8 should also bring you luck since 8 is a homophone for luck. Wearing jade or red is also said to keep evil spirits away during this unlucky period.



In more festive areas, parades go through the whole city with traditional music playing, drums beating, dancers performing , and dragons weaving between all the other acts. These dragons are dancing people under a costume, dressed in pants and shoes that match the dragon’s color so that it would appear as though it was slithering about the streets. Dragons, paired with the loud, rhythmic drums, are said to be able to scare evil spirits away when trying to bring as much luck and prosperity into the new year.

Fireworks and firecrackers are traditionally lit to also scare away evil spirits. Intricate displays are shot into the night sky for all to enjoy; many showings can last for two to three hours. Yinan Guo (‘17) believes that “fireworks itself is a culture” in these celebrations. He has lived in Xi’an, China for most of his life and misses these shows as well as his friends and other family members. Like many holidays all over the world, being together with family and friends is very important.



This holiday is celebrated all over the world, even here in Durham. Zhang and her family celebrates the new year by watching the Chinese New Year TV special that happens in China and making dumplings along with other food. Some families like Zhang’s invite others over so that it can turn into one big get together. Zhang and Guo both agree that the holiday here in the States is quite different; they still have to go to school during the fifteen day vacation and there is a lack of decorations and fireworks everywhere. Despite that, there are some small slivers of the occasion in this community that are close to home. The University of New Hampshire had put on a celebration by the Confucius Institute. Zhang recalled that there were “acrobats and singers and musicians from China [who performed] in the Johnson Theater. It hasn’t happened for a couple years, but maybe three years ago when I went it was just a really great experience and the acrobats were amazing and very traditional.” UNH also offered a Chinese New Year Woodblock Exhibition and Workshop earlier this week, but due to the weather conditions, it was cancelled.

Hopefully, your luck will be better than last year’s. Happy New Year to you all!

Written by Megan Wu