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The days of Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year celebrations can take place over 16 days, from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the 15th day of Chinese New Year—the Lantern Festival.

Each day is associated with special meanings and activities. These vary across the number of countries that celebrate Chinese New Year but here are some of the more common activities.

Day-by-day guide to Chinese New Year celebrations:

Chinese New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is called ‘Chu Xi’ in Chinese and is one of the most important festivals in China. On this day, families get together and celebrate traditional customs that go back centuries.

Day 1: Celebrates the beginning of a year

Chinese New Year’s day is also the beginning of spring. Officially beginning at midnight, this day is traditionally spent welcoming the gods of heaven and earth with customs that can be traced back more than 1000 years.

Day 2: Visiting friends and relatives

The second day of the Chinese New Year is known as ‘Kai Nian’ in Chinese, meaning the beginning of a year. People offer sacrifices to the God of Fortune who they welcomed in on New Year’s Eve, and hope he will give them good fortune for the coming year.

Day 3: Staying at home

The third day of the Chinese New Year is ‘Chi Kou Ri’—the day of ‘red mouth’. This is not day for socialising or visiting relatives or friends because ‘red mouth’ in Chinese culture causes quarrels and fights.

This day is also known as ‘Chi Gou Ri’, the day of the red dog. Bad things happen if people run into the red dog, also known as the God of Blazing Wrath.

Day 4: Worshipping gods

The fourth day of the Chinese New Year is known as ‘Yang Ri’ or the day of the goat. This is an auspicious day becasue the goat symbolises good luck. On this day, people welcome the Kitchen God and the God of Fortune by staying at home to prepare fruit, burn incense and light candles.

Day 5: Festival of Po Wu and the day of breaking taboos

Known as the Festival of Po Wu (‘Po’ means breaking), the fifth day is the day to break taboos. On this day, people celebrate with a large banquet and shoot off firecrackers to get the attention of the God of Fortune, ensuring his favour and good fortune for the whole year.

Day 6: Sending away the ghost of poverty

The sixth day of the Chinese New Year is known as ‘Ma Ri’, the day of the horse. According to traditional customs, which differ in each region, families send away the ghost of poverty and welcome the beautiful days of a new year.

Day 7: The day of the human

The seventh day of the Chinese New Year is ‘Ren Ri’, the day of the human. According to legend, Nv Wa, the goddess who created the world, created human beings on this day.

Day 8: Celebrating the birthday of millet

The birthday of millet, an important crop in ancient China, is celebrated on Day Eight. According to folk proverbs, if this day is bright and clear, then the whole year will have good harvests. However, if it rains or is cloudy, the year will suffer from poor harvests. Although millet is no longer a staple food in China, this day celebrates the importance of agriculture.

Day 9: The birthday of Jade Emperor, the supreme deity of Taoism

According to Taoist legend, all the deities of heaven and earth celebrate this day, which is dedicated to the Jade Emperor, the ruler of Heaven. People usually offer sacrifices to the deity on this day.

Day 10: The God of Stone’s birthday

On Day 10 it is forbidden to move any stone, including stone rollers and mills, so this day is known as ‘Shi Bu Dong’ (meaning to ‘not move any stone’). Families burn incense and candles for the stones, and offer pancakes to the God of Stone.

Day 11: Fathers-in-law entertain sons-in-law

The 11th day of Chinese New Year is for fathers-in-law to entertain their sons-in-law. Food left over from the ninth day—the birthday of the Jade Emperor—is used for the feast.

Day 12: Preparing for the lantern festival

The 12th day of the Chinese New Year does not have much significance. Because the Lantern Festival is three days later, families start preparations on this day by buying lanterns and building a lantern shack.

Day 13: Seeing lanterns

People in the north and south of China have different traditions for this day. In northern China, the 13th day of the Chinese New Year is the anniversary of the death of the sons of an old man, Mr Yang, and is an ominous day. Mr Yang had 13 sons who all died within one year, and the first son died on the 13th day of the Chinese New Year. However, in the southern part of China, this is a happy day to celebrate the beauty of lanterns.

Day 14: Celebration of lantern festival

In most parts of China, the 14th day of the Chinese New Year is spent in preparation for the next day—the Lantern Festival. On this day, the lantern fair opens for people to buy lanterns. Performers of dragon and lion dances practise in the streets, and families prepare lanterns, ‘Yuan Xiao’ or Tang Yuan’ (rice gluten balls), and candles for use on the next day.

Day 15: Celebration of lantern festival

The 15th day of the Chinese New Year is ‘Yuan Xiao Jie’ (Yuan Xiao is rice gluten ball) or ‘Shang Yuan Jie’—both refer to the Chinese Lantern Festival. Chinese New Year activities reach a high point with dragon and lion dancing parades in the streets, and large crowds. People light colourful lanterns, and families go out to enjoy the full moon.