A Traditional Chinese New Year

One of the best things about cultures other than our own, are the multitudes of legends and traditions which differentiate themselves from the culture that we’re familiar with. By experiencing the uniqueness of other cultures, we see our own in a new light, providing us with a perspective otherwise impossible to achieve. Chinese New Year presents an opportunity to show curiosity about this long lived and established tradition that’s shared amongst both Chinese and increasingly, non-Chinese alike.



Where else to start than at the beginning? Chinese New Year originates from the myth of ‘Year’ (“Nian” in Chinese) a monster who was fabled to terrorize villagers by eating their crops and frightening them with his grisly appearance on the night of every New Years Eve.  The villagers discovered that ‘Year’ was afraid of the colour red, fire and loud sounds, hence the proliferation of red decorations and fire crackers which are synonymous to the festival.


The family unit is the most important aspect of Chinese New Year and it’s expected that all members of the immediate family make their way home to celebrate no matter what their circumstances are. ‘Red Packets’ – which are small red envelopes with money inside, are gifted to younger members of the family to start the new year with wealth and luck. A similar tradition offered to elders by the younger generation is also common.


Food is a bonding experience for many cultures and China is no exception to this. Special foods are eaten during Chinese New Year such as steamed fish, Hot Pot and Dumplings which symbolise wealth and prosperity. The making of Dumplings is especially important for the Northern Chinese, where members of the family get together to laugh, banter and catch up over a much-loved ritual.


Red is an unmissable part of Chinese New Year. Seeped in meaning and symbolism for Chinese people, it’s a colour that represents joy, celebration and success and so it appears not only during Chinese New Year, but also wedding celebrations, inaugural ceremonies and the sealing off of official documents.

Learn more about Chinese culture and history at The Chinese Museum and What's On in Melbourne