Welcoming the God of Wealth on the 5th Day of the Chinese New Year


“On the 5th day of the Chinese New Year, my family used to have this ritual to welcome the God of Wealth into our home because the 5th day of the New Year is believed to be the birthday of the God of Wealth. We set off fireworks before they were banned, had a feast, and worshipped a portrait of the God of Wealth on this Buddha altar we had in our home which usually closeted a Buddha statue. Our worshipping usually involved burning incense and pouring him a cup of Chinese liquor. Though I believe the God of Wealth was not actually a Buddhist god, my family didn’t believe in either and it was rather a casual superstition to wish for prosperity in the following year.”


The informant is a 23-year-old female who was born and raised in Guangzhou (the capital city of Guangdong province in China), and is currently a graduate student at USC. Her family is a typical Cantonese family that values tradition and according to her, is a little superstitious. Due to fire hazards, fireworks are now not allowed in cities like Guangzhou, so her most vivid memory of welcoming the God of Wealth dates back to when she was a child. The informant openly expressed her nostalgia for a grand celebration as a remnant of the past.


Though most Chinese families are atheists, worshiping the God of Wealth is more of a casual superstition and is often considered a part of the Chinese New Year celebration. This was reflected in the informant’s case, given how the family had a Buddha altar and placed the portrait of the God of Wealth there, yet they believed in neither Buddhism nor Taoism (the God of Wealth is considered a Taoist god). Wishing upon Buddha and the God of Wealth was a superstitious ritual carried out lightheartedly to wish for good fortune and prosperity, the typical wishes for a new year. 

On a personal level, this memory mattered to the informant because it reminded her childhood, her time spent with her family, and the many celebrations that had been lost as she grew up including fireworks. Today’s public discourse on Chinese mainstream media frequently complains about why the celebration of traditional festivals, most notably Chinese New Year, doesn’t feel as grand and enjoyable as it used to be. The informant acknowledged and agreed that the past was already lost, and spoke of this specific experience she used to have once a year nostalgically.