Food and Clothing Traditions for Chinese Lunar New Year

Informant Details

  1. Gender: Female
  2. Occupation: Student
  3. Nationality: Chinese-American

Folklore Genre: Holiday Rituals and Superstitions, Calendar Year

  1. Text

The informant explained some traditions and superstitions associated with the Chinese Lunar New Year. During the Lunar New Year, it is traditional to place oranges around different rooms in your house for good luck and prosperity. On New Year’s Eve, you eat a vegetarian diet so that you don’t bring bad energy from hurting other forms of life going into the new year. On New Year’s Day, there is a big feast with a lot of specific lucky dishes. It is best to eat as a family because this brings good fortune and togetherness, but it isn’t considered bad luck if you are eating alone. During this feast, you have to eat some of each dish to ensure you are lucky in all parts of your life. Noodles are eaten to represent longevity. It is bad luck to cut these noodles because this implies that you will shorten your life. Chicken is eaten to ‘fly’ into a year of good fortune, fish is eaten for prosperity and good luck, and green vegetables are eaten for financial wealth and good fortune. Similarly, you are meant to wear colors that represent certain aspects of your life. Wearing red brings good luck, wearing green brings wealth, wearing gold brings success, and wearing yellow brings good health. You can wear more than one color to cover all these areas of life. It is considered very bad luck to wear black on New Year’s Day because this color represents death. The superstition is that if you wear black, you or someone in your life will die. 

2. Context

These traditions and superstitions are done during the Lunar New Year, which usually occurs around the end of January. The informant learned these rituals from her mother and grandmother. Her mother is Chinese-American and her grandmother is Chinese.

3. Analysis

Cultural values are reflected in the specific areas of life represented through the dishes and colors. Many of the traditions are meant to bring financial prosperity. This suggests that striving for wealth is viewed as admirable in this culture and wealth is viewed positively. Health and longevity are also highly prioritized. This suggests that growing old is seen as a blessing in this culture. Additionally, togetherness is valued, which indicates that family relationships are a priority. Overall, these rituals focus on bringing blessings into the new year, instead of reflecting on the past year, which suggests that this culture has a future-oriented viewpoint. These rituals also connect to the idea of homeopathic magic because you are meant to eat and wear things that symbolize the future you want.