For many Americans, the last day of the year is the 31st of December. On this eve, you’ll find millions of Americans jettisoning fireworks, eating expensive meals, having family and block parties, and watching the Time Square ball drop, all in anticipation of counting down the last few seconds of the year. When the crowd yells, “Happy New Year!,” groups practice all sorts of traditions, including:
- Kissing someone to declare a desire for more love
- Making resolutions toward specific achievements
- Toasting to new beginnings in life, love, family & career
- Practicing rituals to initiate personal transformation
- Launching fireworks to celebrate the light & magic ahead
- Eating & drinking a lot so they pass out numb & clueless
No matter your tradition, many people worldwide initiate new and clean calendars to signify the rebirth of their journeys. Through a variety of intentions, rituals, prayers, and meals, they hope to create a rejuvenated life and inspire beautiful transformations in themselves and every relationship among their families and friendships.
On New Year’s Day, it’s truly a NEW DAY! LET THE REBIRTH BEGIN!
Last year, people were stuck at home, staring at the blank walls, forced to face their inner truths. Though many people are still struggling with the new realities of workflow, social distancing, and new-style productivity, this year feels different from others. This year truly feels like a new beginning, unlike any others prior. It’s this year that we all hope to escape the follies, crushing challenges, and remarkable shifts that occurred throughout 2020.
Many Americans have already started their journeys to revise, celebrate, and improve themselves. For those observing the Chinese New Year, it’s a little different, more theatrical and ritualistic, and a bit more complex and exciting. And this excitement is about to begin!
Observed on the first new moon of the year, the Chinese New Year is not so different from the one celebrated on the 1st of January, yet it offers a chance to improve specific aspects of life, relationships, hearth, and home.
For the Chinese, this holiday is about expelling the negative aspects so that there is ample space for the positive to emerge, strengthen, and manifest.
Before The New Year Festival Begins
On the 3rd day of the eight lunar month, Chinese people offer prayer, food, and burning incense to The Kitchen God known as Zao Jun. This day is thought to be his birthday!
For many, Zao Jun’s wife is also considered a Kitchen God. Families might leave little bowls of rice, candy, cookies, and more to humble themselves to these loving, empowering Gods.
This activity is repeated on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month in northern China and the 24th day in southern China, just before the New Year festival begins. Chinese believe that this is the day that The Kitchen God reports to the Jade Emperor in Heaven.
This time period is often known as The Kitchen God Festival or The Little New Year, where families prepare for the rituals and cooking they’ll soon perform so they might clear the past and invite the new.
Families often offer candy or sweets to The Kitchen God so that he’ll have a good feeling when he reports the family’s activities to Heaven. Yes, this is a form of spiritual bribery! A family might even construct a paper effigy of Zao Jun in order to invite Heaven’s most auspicious responses and providence.
Yard and garage cleaning are also part of this festival. During this time, even the tiniest bit of waste is removed from the property. Prayers are offered, incense is burned, and all the residents are cleansed.
Throughout this process, it is said that all of the negating or blocking spirits are asked to leave and all those who remain are requested to nurture the family and all of their belongings.
As legend and historical reports have it, Zao Jun was actually a human being who lived on the earth, but under a different name, Zhang Lang. Zhang Lang married an amazing human being, someone who was truly virtuous. Sadly, he soon diverted his love to a younger woman.
Although this karma took away his eyesight and turned him into a beggar, his former wife encouraged his remorse, and he began weeping. Soon, his vision was restored. With guilt in his heart, he thrust himself into the kitchen fire and died. Over time, his former wife built a shrine over the fireplace which began his evolution from broken man to divine Being.
Zhang Lang, in the form of Zao Jun, continues to be an inspiration for many Chinese people to be earnest, honest, forthright, loyal, and humbly in service to the family.
It is also said, because of her humility and love for him, that his former wife is far more powerful than he. May all kitchens and homes benefit from this lesson!
Observing the Chinese New Year at Home
Like most western New Years’ events, the Chinese New Year is celebrated on the eve of the holiday. But unlike its counterparts, the Chinese New Year includes over two weeks of festivities and rituals that follow the eve, and many days of prep work before the year begins.
Before observing the Chinese New Year holiday (New Year’s Day), many Chinese and observant families will first clean their house and throw away (and give away) and unused items.
The removal of clutter and garbage is not only symbolic of the negativity the house hopes to purge from the last year, but is a literal decluttering of the lives of everyone living there.
It’s interesting to note that any items used for New Year’s cleaning are put away before New Years’ day. This prevents anyone from sweeping away the accrued and potential good luck.
After everyone cleans their houses, they decorate them in red and yellow lunar patterns. The decorations vary from house to house, but may include lanterns, knots, traditional Chinese gowns and many handmade streamers. Paper symbols are cut with scissors and hung in windows. The symbols can vary but usually represent the animal of the year.
Once the house is clean and fresh, householders begin to relax. They look forward to celebrating the year for up to 15 days.
New Year’s Eve
Every eve of the Chinese New Year, families will gather around for a reunion dinner, one that’s similar to the Thanksgiving meal of American households. Distant family members will travel from around the world to sit with relatives and celebrate the coming year.
During this reunion, adults give their younger family members (children and teens) money (cold hard cash) in red envelopes. How cool is that?!
This is symbolic of the hope for prosperity in the new year. The amount of money varies from family to family, but usually ends in an even number to promote good luck and positivity.
The meals change from region to region, but the symbolism is the same. Whether it’s dumplings, noodles, stews, joe, meat, or cake, each meal symbolizes the need for resources to sustain the family. Whether it’s dumplings or cake, loved-ones share their plump dough as prayers of prosperity for all involved.
After the meal, families often head to the temple. Similar to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim New Year’s services, many view the Chinese New Year as not only a chance to find renewed lives, but as an opportunity to renew their faiths.
This Spiritual Renewal is typically followed by returning home and observing the last few hours of the year with close family. Everyone enjoys lots of home-cooked food, reflects on the previous year, and looks forward to the wonderful opportunities ahead.
Toward the end of this day, all cleaning tools, brooms, dustpans and the like are stored for a time so that luck cannot be swept away!
The First Day of the Year
At midnight, fireworks and noise makers are heard throughout the streets. While western traditions have less specific and often vague explanations for the bright displays, traditionally, the loud noises are meant to scare away negative energies and the spirits that loom in the house. Along with these explosions, Lion or Dragon dancers might be present to partake in the ritual of removing the old and welcoming the new. It’s customary to continue the dances with giant Dragon and Lion puppets throughout the night to scare any lingering spirits that might out-last the fireworks.
In recent years, Disney and other Hollywood entertainment companies have done a much better job presenting theatricalized Chinese culture. While prior attempts were often sloppy, incomplete, or insulting, today’s movies illustrate authentic representations of Chinese rituals and dances.
After the midnight ceremonies, in observance of this night (known as Shou Sui), doors are locked and remain locked until the light of the morning. In some households, everyone in the family remains awake throughout the night to encourage a long and prosperous life for all family members.
If children participate in this late night and early morning, it is said they will increase the longevity of their parents. Throughout the year, many Chinese prayers include the hope for longevity for parents and grandparents.
During the remainder of New Year’s day, families honor deities and elders, showing respect to all those who existed prior, most notably, the people who made their lives and families possible.
Day 2 of the Chinese lunar calendar is considered the beginning of the year. During this time, married women will travel back to their birth parents, after spending the eve and first day with the families of their husbands. This day is the first one that traditionally targets an individual God. The God of Wealth is celebrated by opening new businesses, giving money to others, and praying for a prosperous year.
This is also a day of discussing, releasing, and forgiving past behavior related to money. It might be that one or more members of the family had a bad habit in relation to finances. This is the day they solve the riddle of how that habit came to be – and they resolve to release it for all time.
Traditionally, women in China are entrusted with the being responsible for all financial matters within the family structure. While adherence to this tradition has lessened over time, it’s still a vital part of the philosophy. Men, on the other hand, are given a stipend, an allowance much like American parents give to their kids.
This distinct cultural aspect has proven incredibly effective for the Chinese people. While men often have a great deal of non-specific, outward aggression, women tend to strategize around their aggression, in favor of the family.
This auspicious day of ritual looks towards the God of Blazing Wrath. People burn paper to ensure they avoid any misfortune. During this day, many people stay home and refrain from welcoming any strangers into their lives. For the most reckless among us, this third day tends to invite unfortunate events and general bad luck.
The fourth day of the Chinese New Year features a Spring dinner that’s most often shared among friends and family. Meanwhile, businesses tend to return to their usual schedules and pursuits.
Some business owners will combine a few of the rituals they performed at home on this day, all in service to the primary pursuit of growing and protecting their companies.
This important day is considered the birth day of the God of Wealth and is celebrated by lighting more fireworks to draw the attention of the deity. Just like the New Year’s eve, dumplings shaped like money bags are consumed in his honor.
Day 6 and 7
After the official 1st day of the New Year, cleaning is generally forbidden for a period of time, most notably on the sixth and seventh days.
Sweeping and removing items from the house could have led to positive energy accidentally being thrown out. But on this day, the Horse’s Day, all the accumulated trash is thrown out in fear that holding onto excess could potentially invite more negative energy going forward.
Following this final removal of trash on the sixth day is the personal or seventh day. On this day, many Chinese people consider making personal growth their number 1priority. Throughout the day, individuals will reflect on how they have personally grown over the prior twelve months.
During this time, expensive fresh foods are often prepared according to ancient traditions and eaten thoughtfully and communally. Dishes containing raw fish and vegetables are consumed to ensure continual growth and prosperity.
Day 8, 9, and 10
The tenth, eleventh, and twelfth days of the Chinese New Year celebrate the Jade Emperor. Exact days vary from culture to culture, but typically the traditions are true to each region.
Some families burn incense and offer food on golden paper, while others have large feasts adorned with red lanterns. In many families, the household will pray and respectively bow to the Jade Emperor and all the Deities below Her. By respecting these Gods and those who provided for others, the house hopes to glean good fortune for themselves and those in need.
It is said that the the most earnest families who truly honor the Jade Emperor enjoy the most auspicious and wondrous new year.
Day 15 (Last day of the Chinese New Year festivities)
Two weeks after the Chinese New Year’s day celebrations began, the Day of Lanterns is observed. During this time, families light candles to guide ancestors to the eternal light. Lanterns are lit and carried throughout the house and community, inviting happiness and good fortune for all those who witness their soft glow.
In ancient times, the lanterns were red to symbolize wealth and positivity, but over the years, lanterns have taken many shapes and sizes. While some are shaped like golden Dragons, others include riddles that lead children on scavenger hunts. During these hunts, children experience adventure and self-discovery.
Regardless of the shapes of the lanterns, the breathtaking landscapes, filled with little beacons of light surely help to lift the mood of all those who attend. The Lantern Festival is a day to anticipate goodness, fortune, and happiness. It’s an inspiring day when new hopes are created and old hopes are fulfilled!
Applying the Philosophy of the Chinese New Year
While the typical American New Year’s Eve party might be solely celebratory in nature, the Chinese New Year is largely dedicated to hope, reflection, and new beginnings. These more thoughtful types of activities are akin to performing ancient rituals.
Each New Year is a chance to celebrate life. Each day is an opportunity to better yourself and all those around you. Use every holiday as days of renewal so that you continually improve your vibration and reach closer to the light – the light within and the light throughout eternity.
Remember, too, that you are a miracle, born from light, sound, and stardust. You are unlimited in every direction throughout all trajectories of your person and all of the related reflections throughout spacetime.
Truly, you are eternity embodied.
If you’re ready for a variety of beautiful and transformative rituals, check out my Free Resources page for Rituals & Declarations – and much much more. You might enjoy exploring and performing The Seven Arrow’s Ritual and The Ritual of The Changing Of The Book Of Life. When performing rituals, we invite all Beings to join us in our transformation and liberation.
LIGHT, LOVE & BLESSINGS TO ALL!