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Chinese New Year Traditions You Should Try (Even if You’re Not Chinese)

February 05, 2016 3 min read


Chinese New Year falls on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, ringing in the year of the Fire Monkey. Lunar New Year is the single most important holiday on the Chinese calendar. All across China it chokes up railways, roads, and airports as everyone rushes home to see their families.

On this side of the globe, Chinese New Year is gaining traction too—and not just among Chinese. So why celebrate the Chinese New Year if you’re not Chinese, or even Asian?

For one, because it’s like a second chance at the new year. Say you’ve slipped from your diet, workout routine, or other resolutions. Lunar New Year falls between mid-January and mid-February, so it’s an opportune time to recommit. It’s like renewing your wedding vows, but with your goals.

More importantly, many Chinese New Year traditions profound in wisdom, and involve good practices that can help you maintain peace, harmony, and self-awareness year-round. Here are some ways to make the most of Chinese New Year:


Tie up loose ends

Anything you’ve been meaning to end from last year? Projects and commitments you shouldn’t have taken on? Debts hanging over your head? Unhealthy relationships? The first step to enjoying a clean slate is, well, cleaning your slate. 


Reflect on past faults

Regular self-reflection was a way of life in ancient China. How well have you taken care of yourself and your loved ones? Have you been honest with yourself and kind with others? What in your speech or conduct can you improve? 


Appreciate what you have

This tradition involves a bit of wordplay. A must-have on the Chinese New Year dinner table is fish—because in Chinese “fish” is a homophone for “plenty” or “surplus.” Folks do this in hopes of inviting future wealth, but we suggest looking at it upside-down: What great things do you have plenty of in your life?


Thank your elders

Older generations are revered in most of the world. Take this chance to thank those on whose shoulders you’ve raised, protected, and mentored you. Let them know how much you appreciate their achievements and their guiding presence in your life. 


Clear your space

Clean your house, physically and metaphorically. What do you need to get rid of? This is a very important aspect of Chinese New Year—one that dates back to the origin of Chinese New Year itself. When you get rid of physical clutter, you get rid of some mental clutter too. 

(Hanoi Photography/shutterstock)

Gather your loved ones

The centerpiece of Chinese New Year is the big reunion dinner, a chance for everyone to catch up, cook, and enjoy a long leisurely meal together before busy schedules scatter the group again. It’s the one get-together no one ever misses—a real rarity in our commitment-laden modern lives.

(Richie Chan/shutterstock)

Challenge your mind

On the 15th day of the new year, it’s a tradition to challenge each other to riddles and brainteasers. Usually the city is decorated with lanterns, with riddles attached on each one. You and your friends can make an event of it—or try these out as a party game. Riddles are a great way to train your brain to think of problems from multiple angles. 

Now you’re ready to conquer 2016 in a mindful and balanced way. Will you try any of these out? Share in the comments!

Produced and edited by Christine Lin. 

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