Gong Hei Fatt Choy! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Year of the Ox! Happy Lunar New Year! #CNY #CNYbooks #ChineseNewYear #LunarNewYear #YearoftheOx

Chinese/Lunar New Year falls on the 12th of February (based in the cycle of the moon, varying slightly from year to year) this year. And year 2021 is the year of the ox. This time of the year, my family and I would usually travel back to Malaysia to celebrate it with our families. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic this year, we won’t be able to do so ☹

So, what is the backstory of Chinese New Year?

CNY is celebrated for 16 days (from CNY eve to the Lantern Festival). According to the ancient Chinese legend, there was a monster called Nian (which also means ‘year’ in Chinese), who lived in the sea would go onshore to hunt villagers and livestock by the end of the lunar year. Villagers would escape to faraway towns to save themselves from the Nian monster. Then one day, a wise old man visited the village who claimed he could help them deal with Nian. On New Year’s Eve, when the villagers left for the mountains, leaving the old man to face Nian. When the villagers returned the next day, they were surprised to find that their village wasn’t destroyed and the old man was alive.

Some popular CNY songs 🙂

The wise old man soon revealed to them that Nian was afraid of the color red and loud noise. Since then, the villagers started putting up red decorations, wore red clothing, lighting firecrackers and play loud music to scare away Nian.

Preparation for Lunar New Year: We clean the house, shop for new clothes, put up CNY decorations around the house and hang ‘lucky-themed’ couplets on the door to usher in the gods of wealth, health and prosperity, and in my home, we play CNY music and songs to put us in the mood, just like what we do for Christmas!

Reunion dinner: Reunion dinner, like Thanksgiving in the US, is the most important get-together for us. Married women usually celebrate it with their in-laws. We only visit our side of the family on the first day of CNY.

Dishes served during reunion dinners (and throughout CNY) are very symbolic shrimps for laughter and happiness, fish for prosperity, nian gao (glutinous rice cake) for career advancement, noodles for longevity and lastly, lou sang (more of a recent tradition, believed to be created by Loke Ching Fatt in Seremban, Malaysia, in the 1940s, inspired by a fish noodles dish from Guangdong, China) and has since then became a popular tradition, making it a must-do during CNY.

During CNY Eve, adults (kids too!) usually stay up late for the countdown and to light up firecrackers at midnight. After dinner, my family and I usually while away our time watching CNY programs on TV, drinking, chatting and catching up with each other.

During CNY: There are a few things that we CANNOT do during CNY – no sweeping or cleaning the house, no taking out the garbage because it’s believed that we’re with sweeping luck and wealth away; no crying or you’ll scare the gods, no wearing black.

These are the DOs: Wear red, give out mandarin oranges (the word in Cantonese means gold), wish everyone well when you meet them (pai nian), serve tea to our parents, in-laws and grandparents in the morning, visit your friends and relatives, give out hong baos (red packets) to kids and single adults. And of course, there’s the famous dragon and lion dance! As far as I can remember, my dad had only invited the lion dancers once, when I was a little kid. It was really fun watching them dance and perform. Have you watched them perform in real life before? The best part for me was, when you get to ‘feed’ the lion hangbao after it’s done 🙂 Imagine getting to say, I got to feed a lion with my bare hands!

How we celebrate it back home in Malaysia: Since we have a big family on my dad’s side, we usually decide months ahead where we’re going to celebrate the new year. Last year, we celebrated it in Ipoh, Perak. Our cousins from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and us from the US flew back to celebrate and it was one ‘party’ after another! One of our favorite things to do is….KARAOKE (not me though LOL). It’s very popular in restaurants this time of the year, especially if you booked a whole hall or room to yourself. But this year, we’ll all be celebrating it in our own homes due to the pandemic. Sigh…Oh well!

So are we celebrating CNY this year? Nothing much. I cooked some simple dishes for our tiny ‘reunion’ dinner – steamed fish, assam shrimp, soy sauce chicken. Ooh, I’ve also baked our popular walnut cookies (image from thewoksoflife.com, the rest are from google search) and pineapple tarts! I’ve also made a little lion head for the kids to play with LOL

And my family, relatives and I ‘visited’ each other (pai nian) via Zoom. Hurray to technology!

Since we have nowhere else to go, I guess it’s safe to say that we’ll be ‘celebrating’ the rest of CNY at home 😅

Rightfully I should end this post with a book recommendation! So here are some great books to read to or with your kids about Chinese/Lunar New Year:

Click on the picture for more details.

Do you celebrate the Lunar New Year too? If yes, how do you celebrate it and where? If you don’t, please share with me the special celebrations you celebrate with your family. I’d love to know!

Last but not least, happy niu year to you all who celebrate! May the year of the ox bring you and your family good health, prosperity, peace and joy!! 🐮🐂

25 Comments Add yours

  1. Leslie says:

    I am so sorry that you will not get to go back to celebrate. It sounds like such a wonderful time. I hope this year is better and then NEXT year, you can travel! <3<3<3

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you! I sure hope so too! Keeping fingers crossed 🙂 Do you celebrate other celebrations, Leslie?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Leslie says:

        I celebrate all the traditional ones in the US plus my some of my mexican roots. For instance, Cinco de Mayo and Day of the Dead. We don’t do it in the traditional sense but a little celebration. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jee Wan says:

        Oh? Care to elaborate, Leslie? You mean, like a small family gathering instead of going all out?

        Like

  2. mrbooks15 says:

    Happy Lunar New Year! We don’t celebrate here but I have been reading about the foods and celebrations. It was nice to read the story behind the red paper decorations and fireworks. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      You’re welcome, and thank you! Where are you from, if you don’t mind me asking? What celebrations do you celebrate there?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. mrbooks15 says:

        India–so mostly it is diwali and holi that are celebrated with numerous other festivals as well. Christmas is also celebrated by many now–more so than before.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jee Wan says:

        In Malaysia, we call it Deepavali 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. stargazer says:

    The Chinese New Year, sounds like a lot of fun! Except perhaps the karaoke part, I really can’t sing! Love the explanation of the red colour. I am sorry, you don’t get to celebrate the usual way, but I am sure next year we will all be back on track. All the food looks yummy and I wish you and your family a happy (Chinese) new year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, stargazer! Oh my I can’t sing too! My husband always teases me whenever I try to ‘sing’ LOL Do you celebrate other celebrations besides Christmas and New Year?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. stargazer says:

        No, they are really the main celebrations.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Rae Longest says:

    Because I have several Asian friends, I was aware of the Lunar New Year, but now, thanks to your post, I understand so much more about it. What an informative source.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you so much, Rae! And thank you for reblogging it on your blog 🙂

      Like

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Rae!

      Like

  5. sjhigbee says:

    Thank you for a lovely, informative article! I hope that next year you will be able to celebrate with all your family:))).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      It’s my pleasure and thank you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you very much for this very interesting post, I learned a lot ! I’ve only seen Chinese New Year in Paris 🙂 I’m sorry that you couldn’t go and join your family this year, let’s hope it will be possible next year. Happy new year, then, bonne année, bloavezh mad (in breton) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you! I’ve never seen CNY in Paris! Are the streets decorated with lanterns too? THank you for teaching me a new language! I had to look it up coz I haven’t heard of breton 🙂 May I ask where are you from?

      Like

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you so much for sharing 🙂 I’m a ‘she’ 🙂

      Like

  7. nsfordwriter says:

    Happy new year Jee! Thanks for explaining about Chinese new year, it was interesting to read. Sorry you don’t get to celebrate in person with your family this year. I was born in the year of the dragon! How about you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, NS! I was born in the year of the horse 😀 I’m ancient! HAHA

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Happy Lunar New Year, Jee! I’m really saddened to hear how the pandemic ruined the opportunity to celebrate this with your loved ones but I was glad to learn so much about it through this post though! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      THank you, Lashaan! And thank you for reading 😀

      Like

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