Money Related Traditions for Celebrating Chinese New Year

By Xin Lu on 11 February 2010 (Updated 8 March 2010) 4 comments
Photo: kennymatic

The Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, is celebrated annually by billions of people around the world. In 2010, New Year's Day falls on February 14th. Here are some of the customs related to money and financial prosperity you may see and hear during the Chinese New Year.

Wealth

One custom enjoyed by all Chinese children is the giving of ya sui qian, which literally means "money to push down your age." This custom stemmed from a Chinese folklore that states each year there are evil spirits named sui that sickened children, and each family must bribe the spirits with some money to keep them away. These days kids do not worry about the evil spirits, but get the money. Elders generally would give money in little red packets to children as families visit each other in succession. In fact, it's not just children who receive these "red envelopes" but unmarried young adults as well. Once you are married, the tables are turned and you start handing out red envelopes.

Prosperity

A common greeting for Chinese New Year is gong xi fa cai in Mandarin or gung hay fat choy in Cantonese. It literally means "congratulations and get wealthy." Another greeting that is often seen on cards is nian nian you yu, which means "every year there will be extra." Since the word for "extra" is a homophone of the word for "fish," New Year feasts usually include fish.

Health

Traditional New Year's food is symbolic of the hope for prosperity in the new year. A popular food item to eat during new year is the dumpling. Although they are eaten all year round, they are a must during the new year because dumplings are usually shaped like gold and silver ingots used in ancient China as currency. Another food eaten for prosperity is a sticky sweet rice cake called nian gao, which is a homophone for the words "year" and "high." If you are invested in the stock market you definitely would want it to be higher in the new year.

Ultimately, Chinese New Year is a celebration of family and friends. It is a time when we get together to wish each other the best for the future, and appreciate the fact that we have survived another year, together. Happy new year everyone!

Additional photo credits: bedo, DreamBigPx
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Gilda

I always wondered where some of these traditions came from and when asking the "elders" of the family always got some very vague answer. Now I know. Happy Chinese New Year Xin!

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Guest

春节发“压岁钱”的故事传说
http://www.hnta.cn 添加时间:2009-1-12 来源:本站 点击次数:143
春节发“压岁钱”的传说
在中国的春节期间,每个孩子都能够得到压岁钱。拜年时,长辈将事先准备好的压岁钱分给晚辈,代表着对孩子新一年的祝福。

压岁钱有两种,一种是以彩绳穿线编作龙形,置于床脚,此记载见于《燕京岁时记》;另一种是最常见的,即由家长用红纸包裹分给孩子的钱。压岁钱可在晚辈拜年后当众赏给,亦可在除夕夜孩子睡着时,由家长愉偷地放在孩子的枕头底下。清人吴曼云《压岁钱》的诗中云:“百十钱穿彩线长,分来再枕自收藏,商量爆竹谈箫价,添得娇儿一夜忙。”压岁钱牵系着一颗颗童心,孩子们可以用它来买鞭炮、玩具和糖果等节日所需的东西。
最早的压岁钱出现于汉代,又叫压胜钱,并不在市面上流通,而是铸成钱币形式的玩赏物,有避邪的功能。钱币正面一般铸有“万岁千秋”、“去殃除凶”等吉祥话和龙凤、龟蛇、双鱼等吉祥图案。
关于压岁钱,民间认为分压岁钱给孩子,当恶鬼妖魔或“年”去伤害孩子时,孩子可以用这些钱贿赂它们而化凶为吉。有一个民间传说是这样的:古代有一个叫“祟”的小妖,黑身白手,他每年年三十夜里出来,专门摸睡熟的小孩的脑门。小孩被摸过后就会发高烧说梦话,退烧后也就变成痴呆疯癫的傻子了。人们怕祟来伤害孩子,整夜点灯不睡,就叫“守祟”。据说嘉兴府有一户姓管的人家,夫妻老年得子,十分珍爱。在年三十晚上,为防止“祟”来侵扰就一直逗孩子玩,用红纸包了八枚铜钱,包了又拆,拆了又包。孩子睡下以后,包着的八枚铜钱就放在枕边。半夜里,一阵阴风吹过,黑矮的小人正要用他的白手摸孩子的头,突然孩子枕边迸出一道金光,祟尖叫着逃跑了。这件事传扬开来,于是大家纷纷效仿,在大年夜用红纸包上钱给孩子,祟就不敢再来侵扰了。因而人们把这种钱叫“压祟钱”,又因“祟”与“岁”发音相同,日久天长,就被称为“压岁钱”了。

长辈给孩子们“压岁钱”,其实,“压岁”不一定要用钱,古今不用钱为孩子“压岁”的不乏其例。宋代大文豪苏轼给其子苏迈的就是一只普通的砚台,并以亲手刻在砚台上的“以此进道常若温,以此求进常若惊,以此治财常思予,以此书狱常思生”的砚铭激励儿子。如果长辈们在春节送给孩子们的是能够激发引导他们健康成长的“压岁物”、“压岁言”,可能会更有意义,也不失为一种好风尚。

Guest's picture

I loooove pot stickers!

Will Chen's picture

Happy New Year Xin.  =)