8 Ways to Celebrate Chinese New Year The Year of the Ox in Your Home

Hungry Hong Kong

The Year of the Ox is fast approaching which means it's the perfect time to find ways to bring this fun and lively holiday into your own home.  The fifteen day Lunar New Year celebrations are steeped in history and have many interesting and customary elements that teach lessons about respect, unity, and good fortune.  The festivities range from mouthwatering feasts to giving gifts and even organization and deep cleaning.  At the heart of the celebration it is about family and sharing quality time together.  Whether you already celebrate the holiday or want to add a cultural element to your homeschool routine here are a few ways we celebrate Chinese New Year in our family and some traditoins you can try to join the fun.

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Red Envelopes

  • Hong Bao or Lai See are red envelopes filled with money that are given out during the holiday period to bring luck and fortune in the upcoming year.  Married couples must prepare these envelopes in Chinese tradition and hand them out to children and unmarried family members and friends per tradition. The receiver wishes them a happy new year and good fortune.  Children are usually a huge part of this tradition and receive many red packets throughout the reunion dinner.  In Hong Kong we also hand out the red packets to staff and employees as a show of thanks for their work throughout the year.  Buy red envelopes in any Chinese market during the Chinese New Year period or do a fun project with your children and DIY your own.  Let them draw in gold pen and teach them about the meaning behind the tradition.

Dumplings

  • 'The ultimate Chinese comfort food, who wouldn't want a heaping plate of dumplings on a cold winter day?  This is the centrepiece of a family dinner during the festivities and must be eaten to bring luck and fortune.   The custom started as traditional dumplings strike a resemblance to ancient gold or silver ingots and some families even hide a gold coin in a single dumpling for one lucky member.  The art of making dumplings and recipes handed down through generations are a huge part of the Chinese New Year banquet meal.  Wrapping dumplings is often an activity many partake in with their mothers and aunties during the days leading up to New Year's Eve.  Look up a great recipe and try your hand at creating your own dumplings with your family.  Our favourite are the pork and cabbage, but children also love unconventional additions such as corn, red bean, or something sweet.  Our family tradition is to devour the dumplings at the stroke of midnight.

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Family Dinner

  • The most loved tradition during the New Year period is returning home for the reunion dinner.  Family gatherings are a huge part of Chinese New Year and a way for families to wish each other luck and fortune in the coming year. The meals are always vast with round tables brimming with secret family recipes.  Our traditional table always include dumplings, spring rolls, hot pot, Taiwanese meatballs, turnip cakes and so much more.  The bonding happens as much in the kitchen as it does at the table and you'll hear a night filled with laughter and joy.  Many Chinese restaurants serve a traditional Lunar New Year banquet dinner during the holiday.  If you aren't into trying your hand at making a Chinese feast head to your local Chinese restaurant and ask them to recommend their favourite New Year recipes.  Just don't miss out the big plate of dumplings.

Pay Tribute to your Ancestors

  • It is believed in Chinese culture that deceased family members have a continued existence and importance is put on giving offerings and paying respect to those who have passed.  The spirits will then look after the family from the after life.   A ceremony takes place where prayers are offered to memorial tablets and offerings of fruit, flowers, as well as the ancestor's favourite dishes will be placed on a separate table where they can join the celebration.  This is usually done before the banquet dinner on Chinese New Year's Eve and is an amazing way to remember and reminisce about loved ones who are no longer with us.  You may not have a ancestral tablet but now is a great time look back on loved ones and the memories you had with them.  Celebrate their favourite foods and talk to your children about those we've lost.  Much of this tradition is  about family unity and respect to elders in the household.

Mahjong and Card Games

  • Gambling is a huge part of our family's Chinese New Year.  Not serious gambling, but a bit of Mahjong and maybe some Blackjack.  After dinner is finished the tables will be cleared and everyone of all ages play the games together.  It's a fun way to bond with family and always brings plenty of laughter.  It is also a great way to use the red envelope money you just gained from relatives.  Every family has their favourite card games and at this time friends are usually invited over for the gathering.  Order a mahjong set online and learn how to play this ancient game this Lunar New Year.

Wear Red

  • Stores are always brimming with red clothes as soon as January rolls around.  Tradition states that new clothes should be worn for new year celebrations, so many are out buying their preferred red shirts or jumpers for their home celebrations.  We love the matching kids t-shirts and sweatshirts available at many fast fashion stores and even red accessories are a fun way to play around with the tradition.  Buy your kids "Year of the Ox" red t-shirts and teach them about the different animals in the Lunar calendar.

Cleaning

  • A deep clean is tradition during Chinese New Year and represents sweeping away the old and bidding farewell to the last year. I think all of us can use a bit of sweeping away the Year of the Mouse and allowing space to welcome a fortunate Year of the Ox, so try "winter cleaning" your home in the days leading up to Lunar New Year.  Ensure the dust is swept from all corners and clutter is diminished in your home.  Just remember it is unlucky to clean on New Year's Day as it will sweep away your good fortune so get it all done before the celebrations.

Visit a Chinese Temple

  • If there's a Chinese temple near you, visit during Lunar New Year to light an incense and take in your surroundings.  See others who are partaking in the cultural experience.  Many temples will have dragon dances and lanterns lit for the occasion.  Go early morning for a tranquil and serene atmosphere and bring your children to show them a glimpse of the Buddhist religion.

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We are a full time travelling family, world schooling our kids one trip at a time. Check out our articles to find the best street food, world class Michelin star restaurants, five star resorts, far flung beaches, and tips on travelling with kids and homeschooling.

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