Money Related Traditions for Celebrating Chinese New Year
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.
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.
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.
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!