Here is a list of things Chinese may do around the Chinese New year.
Usually the preparation starts a month before the New Year. Chinese families give their home a thorough cleaning, known as “spring cleaning”. It’s believed the cleaning sweeps away bad luck of the past year and makes their homes ready for good luck. Brooms and dustpans are put away on the first day so that good luck cannot be swept away.
The preparation also includes decorating the house, buying new clothes and firecrackers, preparing enough food for at least one week. The decorations are highly symbolic with a lot of lucky words, printed paintings and red colours everywhere. Everyone gets a haircut before the New Year. So everything and everyone looks new and fresh on the New Year.
2. Reunion Dinner
The New Year’s Eve is the time for families. People, who work in the other cities, will come back home before New Year’s Eve for the reunion dinner. During the meal, everyone will drink a little liquor or wine, which symbolizes longevity since liquor, Jiu in Chinese, has the same pronunciation as longevity.
For traditional food Chinese people will have during the New Year, you can find out more details in the post of What do Chinese eat during the Spring Festival?
Firecrackers are usually strung on a long fused string so it can be hung down. Each firecracker is rolled up in red papers, as red is auspicious, with gunpowder in its core. When the clock rings to announce the arrival of the New Year, people set off fireworks at almost the same time, creating a thunderous sound.
4. Spring couplets
It has been a long-preserved custom over thousands of years for the Chinese people to celebrate the Spring Festival by hanging up spring couplets, we called Chunlian in Chinese, which express the good wish for a peaceful and happy new year. It consists of two lines and a horizontal scroll written on vertical strips of red paper in the best calligraphic style one can muster. The first line is posted on the right side of the front door, the second line is posted on the left side. And the third horizontal piece will be posted over the door.
5. Door-god Portraits
Besides spring couplets, door-god portraits may also be put up on the doors of Chinese families during the Spring Festival. In addition, it is also common to hang up calligraphic writings of the Chinese characters for “spring”, “wealth”, and “blessing”. Some people tend to invert these writings when hanging up because, in Chinese, the characted for “inverted” has the same pronunciation as “arrive”, thus signifying that spring, wealth or blessing has arrived.
6. Red packets
Giving red packets, called Hongbao in Chinese, is another tradition during the Chinese New year. A red packet is simply a red envelope with money in it, which symbolizes luck and wealth. Red packets, also know as Ya Sui money, are passed out from married couples or the elder to unmarried juniors.
Generally speaking, a married person cannot turn down a child’s request for a red packet, otherwise it means that this person would be out of luck in the new year. The amount of money in the red packets may vary, but it should be of even numbers.
7. New Year Greetings
The Chinese New Year is also the time for socializing. People usually wear new clothes and go out to visit their relatives, friends and neighbours. When they meet, they usually greet each other with auspicious words, such as “Happy New Year” (guo nian hao, or xin nian kuai le in Chinese). Remember this one and try it when you come to China next time during the Spring Festival, people will think, WOW, you are brilliant!