Country of the month: China

chinese-lantern-932217_1920Happy Chinese New Year! The year of the monkey is here. Are you an expat currently residing in China? Then you should get ready for a full week of festivities! Luckily, it’s not only those living in China who can enjoy the New Year celebrations, since there are so many people from China living overseas, there are plenty of ways to celebrate – but what is this celebration all about?


Chinese New Year is always celebrated somewhere in the period between January 21 – February 20. The date changes every year because it is based on the Chinese lunar calendar not the Gregorian calendar.

New Year’s Eve Dinner
As with every major holiday, the Chinese New Year comes with its own set of traditions. One of them is the New Year’s Eve Dinner, which is the most important dinner of the year. It could also be described as a family reunion dinner. Family members that live far away come home for this and the other New Year celebrations and use it as an opportunity to reunite with their relatives.

It is a custom to serve dumplings and fish because these two dishes are a symbol of prosperity. The dinner is usually held at home.

fireworks-532745_1920Fireworks and Shou Sui
After the dinner is over and the clock strikes 12, the sky turns a brilliant shade of red caused by all the fireworks that are launched. They are launched to honor the new year and they are thought to rid China of all evil. The Chinese believe that the first person that launches a firework that night will have good luck for the rest of the year. When there are no fireworks left to launch, the Shou Sui begins, which means “the time after the New Year’s Eve Dinner”. Families tend to stay awake all through the night so they can fight off the mythical beast called “Year”.

According to ancient stories this beast sets its sights on the animals and people during the New Year’s celebrations. When the Chinese people discovered that “Year” is afraid of explosions, fire and the colour red they began launching fireworks to “fight off the evil” and stayed up all night to keep the beast at bay.

The lucky red envelope!
In the few days after New Years, adults (mainly couples) hand out red envelopes with money inside to the elderly or children. The envelopes can contain from one to a couple of thousand Yuan. The Chinese believe that giving a child or elderly such an envelope will give them a long life, drive away evil and keep them healthy. For more Chinese New Year’s traditions, check out this website.

Celebrations throughout the world

Chinese_New_YearThis year the biggest celebration outside
of Asia will be held in London. Some events already began last week, like the Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House Gardens, the show will fortunately be on display until the 6th of March!

Expats living in Singapore are spoilt for choice this holiday, with the epicentre of celebration being, of course,  Chinatown where you will find celebrations on every street corner. Another highlight is the Chingay Parade which will be held on the 19th and 20th February. The parade is a beautiful display of the multicultural facets of Singapore.

If you want to enjoy a musical masterpiece, or two, New York is the place to be. The Chinese New Year Gala Concert takes place on 9th February hosted by the New York Philharmonic orchestra. You can get tickets from only 35 dollars! Next weekend on 14th Feb, grab your partner and head to Sara D. Roosevelt Park to enjoy a wonderful parade with performers and dragon puppets.

Are you an expat in China? How are you planning to spend your first Chinese New Year? Or perhaps you are a Chinese expat who has started their own traditions abroad? How are you celebrating this week?

Images: [tookapic, nataliaaggiato, mdpennysaver]

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