Celebrating Chinese New Year in Manchester
In honour of Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, falling on February 1st 2022, we asked some of our international students to discuss how they celebrate in Manchester and what traditions take place at this time of year.
Written by Yan Tung Liu (Esther) (BASS Sociology and Criminology)
“Happy year of the tiger! Growing up in Hong Kong, I often celebrated the Chinese new year with my beloved family. To most Chinese people, Chinese New Year is the most important festival in the whole year.
Before Chinese New Year, we have to do much preparation. One thing that has always been on people’s to-do list is that we have to buy new clothes and throw away the old ones. Chinese people believe that new clothes symbolize a fresh start, and throwing away the ones symbolizes getting rid of the bad luck we had in the past year. Apart from buying new clothes, we like going to the salon to have a haircut. Getting a new haircut can symbolize a fresh start too. Besides, as we will meet many friends and family during Chinese New Year, getting a new haircut can make us look more decent and prettier. Therefore, before Chinese New Year, salons are so crowded. Many salons will charge customers additional fees. The cost of having a haircut before Chinese New Year might be doubled or even tripled compared to having it on regular days!
There are a lot of traditional foods that we will eat during Chinese New Year. One of the most common ones is called Poon Choi (pictured).
As you can see from the picture, Many Chinese restaurants sell Poon Choi in a huge pot. All the food in the bowl is well-cooked before selling. When we bring the pot back home, we can put it on a gas cooking stove to reheat it. The food in the pot is different in different layers. The top layers are usually more expensive food, such as prawns and abalone. At the same time, the bottom layers are vegetables.
Instead of eating Poon Choi, there are still some traditional practices that many Chinese people should do during Chinese New Year. One traditional practice that my mom still asks me to do is that we cannot throw rubbish away from our house during the first days of Chinese New Year. It is because throwing away the trash means throwing away our good luck. Also, when we are sweeping the floor, we will start cleaning it from the door, then keep sweeping the dust back to our home. This action symbolizes that we are bringing in good luck.
Although I cannot go back to my hometown during Chinese New Year this year, I will go to China Town to have big meals with my fellows. I recommend that everyone go to China Town during Chinese New Year and enjoy this unique festival.”
Written by Youlan Liao (BA Linguistics and Sociology)
“The Chinese Lunar New Year provides an excellent opportunity for people to set goals for the next year. Celebrating the new year is also a chance to wash away all of the bad luck from the previous year and start fresh, expecting a prosperous year ahead. Traditions are a wonderful way for people to celebrate and appreciate this significant moment.
Different lunar years are named after different animals in Chinese tradition. Twelve animals were chosen as cultural symbols to express people’s wishes in Chinese zodiacs. The year ahead is the year of the tiger. In Chinese culture, the tiger is considered the king of all monsters, and people admire it for its ferocity and virility. It’s also associated with toughness, boldness, and vitality.
In China, red is considered a lucky colour, and the belief that red wards off evil spirits and is auspicious dates back to ancient times. People wear red clothes in the new year for believing doing it can bring them good fortune for the coming year, and the old generations give the young generations money in red envelopes, known as hong bao. Giving red envelopes is a traditional way of expressing best wishes, with the amount of money being related to the intimacy of each relationship. The most money is frequently given to children by their parents and grandparents. The way red envelopes are given is changing as technology advances. Some people nowadays prefer to give digital red envelopes instead of traditional paper ones because they are more environmentally friendly.
Cleaning the house is also important in Chinese traditions. Cleaning the house at the end of the year can help you remove the bad luck and misfortune of this year and to make room for good luck to come into your life in the coming year. However, do not do any sweeping, washing or any kind of cleaning on New Year’s Day, for people believe that it would sweep out or wash away good luck in the new year. So, it would be a fantastic idea to give yourself some relaxation at the very beginning of the year!
Want some decorations? Here come the Spring Festival couplets! The Spring Festival couplets are all in black characters on a red background or in gold characters on a red background, with various ornaments to match the festivity and joy of the Chinese New Year, adding to the festive atmosphere of the Spring Festival. They express good wishes and visions. The ornaments in the Spring Festival couplets, such as the fish, mean that there will be a surplus in the year, expressing people’s good wishes for the coming year. They also have the role of scaring the evil spirits away. This saying comes from the legend of Nian, a hideous beast, who would eat human flesh. Nian is afraid of red paper decorations pasted to doors, so every year on New Year’s Eve, every household paste the couplets, in order to drive away Nian.
No matter where you are, in Manchester or anywhere, you can celebrate the year of the tiger. Dressing in red, exchanging red envelopes, cleaning the house and pasting the couplets! Here comes the best wishes: staying healthy, wealthy and happy! Happy New Year!”
Written by Minhao Shao – MA Economics (How to celebrate Chinese New Year (Year of the Tiger))
On Spring Festival, Chinese families would get together to celebrate the new year and there are many traditional customs on the special day.
On the Spring Festival, we make couplets and stick them to the doors. Couplets are a pair of end-rhymed lines of verse that are self-contained in grammatical structure and meaning. We would write words in special structure on the couplets to express our best wishes.
2. Reunion Dinner
On the Spring Festival, Chinese families get together around the table to enjoy the feast. The menu always include fish, seafood and some dishes with special meaning. For example, fish indicates ”年年有余(鱼)” ,which expresses our wishes on savings. “一锅炖”is made of ingredients like potatoes, beans and pumpkin. It has a special meaning of “盆满钵满”, which expresses the meaning of being wealthy.“肉丸子” are made of meatballs, indicating “团团圆圆” which has a beautiful meaning of “healthy, safe and be together ”
Besides, dumplings are most common in reunion dinner. Dumplings are a kind of bread-based food in the Chinese lunar calendar, with common stuffing, like half moon or East Asian food. Dumplings are usually stuffed with minced meat and vegetables wrapped in a thin piece of dough and then sealed.
Here is the photo of my reunion dinner last year.
3. CCTV New Year’s Gala
On Lunar New Year’s Eve, families will turn the TV to CCTV channel because there would be a special show for Spring Festival where lots of celebrities gather to wish happy new year. The shows including singing, drama, crosstalk and dance.
4. New Year Greetings and Visit Relatives
On the Spring Festival, there is a custom about visiting relatives and greeting them with “年货”which are like presents. In my family, I would drive long distance to visit my relatives who are sisters or brothers of my grandparents as well as their children.
5. The Dragon Dance
On Spring Festivals, the dragon dance is used to pray for the blessing of the dragon, so that the wind and rain will be smooth and the crops will be prosperous. Dragon’s main prop is “Dragon”. Dragons use grass, bamboo, cloth, etc. to tie into dances. The number of dances is odd because people believe it is auspicious. The exquisite value arrangement of the dragon presents an exquisite craftsmanship. “Fire dragon, a kind of dragon made of bamboo strips”, specially formed a sub-cage, the paste is transparent, and the oil lamp is burning inside the clothes, and the performance at night is very or spectacular.
Fortunately, China town in Manchester city also held such a big event every Spring Festival !