Lunar New Year

New Year Flower

The Lunar New Year will begin on Friday, 16 February 2018 and will be the Year of the Dog.  

Chinese communities around the world look forward to a 2-week celebration of this most significant of festivals.




Read on for an overview of: Astrological Signs, Origins of Chinese New Year, Lai See, Food, Flowers, Traditions and Events.


Astrological Signs

The twelve astrological signs are each represented by an animal and, according to legend, a race was held to determine their order in the 12-year cycle. The Rat won by cunningly jumped on the head of the Ox and leaping off and over the finish line, followed by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

Those born in the Year of the Monkey are known for being smart, enthusiastic and sociable.


Chinese HorseOrigins of Chinese New Year 

The origin of Lunar New Year began with the conquest of a mythical, man-eating beast called “Nin" ("Nian" in Mandarin) who -- on what has become --New Year’s Eve would emerge from his mountain lair to terrorize and prey upon the people. When an old man observed that “Nin” seemed to fear loud noises and the color red, people pasted red paper on doors and windows and, upon his approach, would also light firecrackers and bang pots and pans. These scare tactics were successful and “Nin” ceased to be a bother.

From this has sprung the traditions of red paper decorations, the lighting of fire crackers and boisterous lion dances, which continue in the present day.


Lai See

Red Pockets

On the first day of the New Year, children pay their respect to their elders and in turn receive red envelopes, called “Lai See” ("Hong Bao" in Mandarin), that contain lucky money. It is customary to pass out “Lai See” to all unmarried friends and those who provide you with services throughout the year (such as concierges, guards, cleaners, etc.). Crisp, new bills in red envelopes are traditionally used and can be obtained from banks. Start early to avoid queues. How much to give is dependent upon how well you know the person or what kind of service they provide for you. Generally, anything from HKD20-50 (RMB10 - 50) is well received, though you may want to offer more for exceptional service. The red envelopes or “Lai See” packets can be purchased at any stationery shop and some stores and banks tend to give them away as well. You can also find them at street stalls all year round and dedicated printing shops in the months before the festival.

Chinese Dishes




Food plays an important role in most Chinese festivals and Chinese New Year is no exception. The names of these dishes have been aptly named to “sound” lucky and ensure good fortune for the coming year.

Fat Go 發糕
(Fa Gao)

A kind of sweet cake made from rice flour; “fat” means prosperity while “go” means to rise into a high position

Nin Go 年糕
(Nian Gao)

Another sweet rice cake that is a must have, as the mincepie would be to Christmas; it suggests a yearly rise in position

Fat Choy Ho-See
(Fa-Cai Hao-Shi)

A stewed dish of dried oysters and black moss (also known as edible seaweed); “fat choy” sounds similar to the words for good fortune and wealth, while “ho-see” suggests “everything is good”.


Nearly every hotel, major Chinese restaurant and grocery store offers these Chinese New Year treats. It’s definitely worth the risk of expanding your waistline and giving giving them a try !



Flower Market

Ubiquitous flowers and red paper decorations (known as “Fai-Tsun”, and "Hui-Chui" in Mandarin) are used to represent life, growth & prosperity. Those that are especially popular include:

The mandarin orange tree
whose name sounds like “gum”, meaning “gold” and “prosperity” in Chinese

The peach blossom
which is a symbol of good fortune & romance
The Chinese narcissus bulb
which is similar to the regular narcissus but with a more unique, heavenly scent
Forsythia, pussy willow and other long stem flowers
which are also popular, are placed in tall vases decorated with lucky symbols


Flower Market

The Festival is a time to reaffirm family togetherness— when any outstanding quarrels should be settled or forgotten. Traditionally, family members would make the journey “home”, no matter where they might be, to join the entire family and greet the New Year together. Today, however, a number of families take advantage of the extended holiday to travel and relax. Regardless pre-festival preparations begin a month beforehand, when houses must be thoroughly cleaned to sweep away any traces of bad luck. Homes are then decorated with special flowers and doors and windows are covered in poems. Tradition also calls for the use of new dishes and the wearing of new clothes— a perfect excuse to go shopping. The following are some traditions which many are still practicing. As you can see, family obligations for Lunar New Year extend well beyond the public holiday.



  New Year’s Eve
  • The extended family comes together to dine on traditional foods. The highlight of the dinner is the fish dish, which is placed on the table but should not be finished as the remainder is to be saved for New Year’s dinner on the following evening. In Cantonese and Mandarin, fish is “yu” which sounds like “plenty” or “surplus”, meaning there a surplus of prosperity will be ensured in the coming year.
  • Shou Shui”( "Shou-sui" in Mandarin) requires the youngest member of the family to stay awake as late as possible to ensure good health for the elder members.
  • In Hong Kong it is popular to visit the Taoist Wong Tai Sin temple in order to ask for better luck in the New Year. Many set the goal to be the first to enter at midnight as the fortune-telling bamboo sticks touching the holder first are considered to have the best chance for one’s prayers to be answered.


  New Year’s Day—Day 1
  • Housework and the washing of hair, knives or other sharp objects are all to be avoided as cleaning on this day is considered taboo (as if you are washing your luck away).
  • “Bai-Nin” ("Bai-nian" in Mandarin) involves New Year visits to family and friends. This occurs on the first 2 days of the New Year. The younger relatives visit the older ones, bringing fruits and candies with them and receiving “Lai See” in return.


  Day 2
  • Lion Dances are traditionally performed on the first day that a business re-opens. Green leaves with “Lai See” attached are symbolically fed to the lion, thereby ensuring good business and prosperity.


  Day 3
  • Day 3 is known as “Chek-Hau” ("Chi-kou" in Mandarin), which sounds like the word for quarreling. Due to this coincidental rhyme, families do not make visits to friends and relatives on this day. Instead, some may visit the Che Kung Temple, famous for its wind wheel, and give it a spin to ask for better luck in the New Year.


  Day 7
  • Day 7 is “Yun-Yut” ("Ren-ri" in Mandarin), also known as the ‘common man’s birthday’. Everyone ‘officially’ grows one year older on this day.


  Day 15—End of the Festival
  • The last day of the festival is known as “Yuen-Siu-Jit” ("Yuan xiao jie" in Mandarin) or Lantern Day. It is also considered to be the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day. Traditionally, a riddle would be attached to a lantern and if you could answer the riddle correctly, you would win the lantern as your prize.
  • This is also the day to eat “tong-yuen” ("yuan xiao" in Mandarin), a sweetened, sticky, rice flour dumpling signifying togetherness.



At APP Mobility, we believe that understanding Chinese holidays and customs helps both newcomers and long-time residents make the most of this vibrant city and its rich heritage. Please feel free to forward this to others who may find it interesting.

Send us an email if you want more detailed information about the Lunar New Year in Hong Kong and China.

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