Chinese New Year is also called “Spring Festival” and “Lunar New Year” because it comes in the springtime and is dated based on the Chinese lunar calendar. The date fluctuates, from a Western perspective, but comes in either January or February.

Chinese New Year is the most important annually recurring festival for people of Chinese ancestry all over the world. It has been celebrated for over 1000 years – possibly much longer, and the traditions involved are deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. For many, it is also a religious holiday, full of prayers, offerings, and other acts of devotion.

In Malaysia, as elsewhere, people prepare for Chinese New Year well in advance. Houses are cleaned out thoroughly before it arrives to “sweep out any bad luck”, but brooms are hidden away on New Year’s Day for fear of “sweeping away the good luck” that the arrival of a new year brings.

New clothes, to be worn on New Year’s Day, and a large stash of food for New Year’s Eve dinner, are also purchased in advance, making the shopping centres very busy this time of year. Greeting cards are also commonly exchanged.

Chinese New Year is actually celebrated for 15 consecutive days, but the first three days – 25, 26, 27 January 2020 are most important. The 15th and final day, Chap Goh Mei is also a big event, where houses are decorated with an abundance of brightly coloured lights. It is a way of ending with a grand finale rather than the festivities just fading away gradually.

Chinese New Year traditions include: “Yee Sang”, a vegetable medley dish eaten by throwing its pieces high in the air with chopsticks to bring good luck; hanging up “duilian”, scrolls bearing famous lines form Chinese poetry; attending lion and dragon dances; betting on card games, so long as the bets are modest; giving out gifts of money in small red ang-pao packages; and attending fireworks displays, the biggest of which are in Chinese districts of Kuala Lumpur and in cities with large Chinese populations.

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