Chinese New Year

(Photo courtesy International Mission Board)

(Photo courtesy International Mission Board)

China (IMB) — [Editor’s Note: This is an International Mission Board story sharing how you can make a difference in a Chinese family’s life this New Year.]

The Chinese Lunar New Year is the perfect holiday to build friendships with Chinese neighbors in your community. The holiday is as important to Chinese as Christmas is to Americans.

Chinese people living away from their homeland often find it to be a lonely time, but you can help them feel right at home and loved. Don’t let worrying about “making cultural mistakes” keep you from reaching out to your Chinese community.

The holiday normally falls in January or February; the date differs each year according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Celebrations officially last from the 1st day until the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. However, if you include the special activities prior to the New Year, such as special family gatherings on New Year’s Eve, the holiday count increases even more!

This is a time for family and eating. Many of the food items eaten at the New Year time have a special meaning. For example, oranges are considered a symbol of wealth, while fish are symbolic of abundance. Plants and food items are the most popular hostess gifts during the holidays.

Two big family meals take place at Chinese New Year, each one consisting of dozens of dishes. The first one is on Chinese New Year’s Eve, and the other is on the evening of Chinese New Year’s Day.

On Chinese New Year’s Eve, family members (especially in northern China) participate in making jiaozi. The jiaozi is cooked the following day and will be eaten for breakfast, and sometimes for lunch. To many Chinese, eating dumplings on the New Year is as important as eating turkey on Thanksgiving is to many Americans.

Millions jam Chinese public transportation to get to their parents’ or grandparents’ homes prior to the start of the holidays, which is why Chinese New Year is often dubbed as “the world’s largest annual mass migration.”

Due to work responsibilities or finances, not everyone can return home. Chinese New Year, therefore, becomes a special time for Christians to reach out in friendship to those who feel lonely and isolated.

Lots of doorbells ring on the first day of the New Year as people visit friends and relatives to pass along New Year greetings. Some visitors don’t even go inside the homes, but merely stop at the door to share a word of cheer.

People also exchange greeting cards at Chinese New Year. Cards are seldom sent at any other time of the year, not even at birthdays.

Visiting neighbors, long lost friends, and family is important during the holiday. If an adult visits a home that has a “child” — anyone from a baby to a young, unmarried adult,  the adult gives a red envelope to the child. Inside the decorative envelope is money.

On New Year’s Day, people usually stay home to relax and eat traditional foods.

Some go to temples, burning incense to idols on the first day of the festival. Temples visited during the New Year may be Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, or any one of many temples built to Chinese traditional gods.

Christians worship God and pray for His blessings in the coming year at special church services. For many believers, this will be the first time they tell their families about their newfound faith.

The last day of Chinese New Year is known both as the “Lantern Festival” and “Yuan Xiao Festival.” It marks the end of the holiday. People light lanterns that float into the night sky or stroll through local parks that have large colorful decorative lanterns on display.

At midnight, at the start of the fifth day of the New Year, many Chinese set off a barrage of fireworks to welcome the “money god” and his arrival on earth for the coming year. Legend says that whoever sets off the loudest and largest amount of fireworks first will become rich during the coming year. The deafening fireworks on this night even surpass the lights and sounds of New Year’s Eve!

The customs associated with Chinese New Year are numerous and can vary slightly from region to region. Pray that God will bless Chinese people around the world during the coming festival and the coming year. Pray that many will hear of God’s goodness and His plan of salvation. If you’d like to find out more, click here.