Different parts of China have very different traditions. The following are the most typical:

New Year’s Eve Dinner

The New Year’s Eve dinner is the most important meal for Chinese families. Normally, this is the family reunion dinner, especially for those with family members away from home. The majority of Chinese families will gather at a family member’s home instead of a restaurant to eat the New Year’s Eve dinner.


Fireworks are used to drive away evil in China. Right after 12:00AM on New Year’s Eve, fireworks will be launched to celebrate the coming of the New Year as well as to drive away evil. It is believed that the person who launches the first firework of the New Year will have good luck.

Shou Sui

Shou Sui means “after the New Year’s Eve dinner.” Traditionally, family members would stay awake all night, but now some people just stay awake until after the fireworks. According to Chinese tales and legends, there was a mythical beast named the Nian (Year). On New Year’s Eve night, the Year would come out to harm people, animals, and proprieties. Later, people found that the Year was afraid of the color red, fire, and loud sounds. Therefore, on the New Year’s Eve night, people will launch fireworks, light fires, and stay awake all night to fend off the Year.

Red Envelopes

The red packet is a red envelope with money in it. The amount of money can range  from one to a few thousand Chinese Yuan. Usually red envelopes are given to children by adults, married couples, and the elderly during the New Year Festival. It is believed that the money and red envelopes will keep evil from the children, keep them healthy, and give them a long life.

*Click here for more information about red envelopes and a craft activity.

New Year Markets

During the New Year’s Festival, temporary markets are setup. The main purpose of the markets is to sell New Year goods, such as clothing, lanterns, fireworks, decorations, food, and small arts. The markets are usually decorated with New Year’s objects.

Small Year

Small year is the last day of the year. It is believed this is the day the Kitchen God will leave the family, go to heaven, and report the family’s activities to the Emperor of Heaven. People have religious ceremonies to say farewell to the Kitchen God. Part of the ceremony includes taking down and burning the image of the Kitchen God. After New Year’s Day, people will buy a new image of the Kitchen God and display it in their kitchen.


A few days before Chinese New Year, people will do a complete cleaning of the house and house wares. This signifies the removal of the old and welcoming the new. Historically, when people did not bath often, this is when people would take a bath to welcome the New Year.


After cleaning the entire house, people will decorate their house. This is to welcome the New Year. Most New Year decorations are red in color, because the Chinese believe red brings good luck, prosperity, and wards off evil. The most popular New Year decorations are upside down fu, dui lian, lanterns, year paint, papercutting, door gods, etc.