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Lunar New Year – Language and Culture Tips

Lunar New Year – Language and Culture Tips

Orange lanterns hung over a crowd at night.

February 2019 marks the start of the Year of the Pig. The twelfth of all the zodiac animals, pigs are a symbol of wealth across much of Asia. Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, has over 4000 years of history and is the longest holiday of the year. Lunar New Year officially begins on 5th February and ends on 19th February.

During this time, many families will come together to celebrate the occasion and enjoy an abundance of delicious food and wishes for a new year filled with prosperity, joy and good fortune. Here we detail some customs and greetings that our APAC staff have shared:

Cleaning

Before the 5th February, homes are thoroughly cleaned to rid them of the bad luck of the past year and fill it with the good luck that is sure to follow in the new one. Rooms should be swept from the entrance to the centre, with rubbish going out the back door. The front door is for the good luck to come in! No cleaning is done on the first day of the year so none of the good luck and fortune is removed.  APAC Marketing Executive, Kammy Liu, says: “My family normally doesn’t wash clothes or take out the rubbish and my Mother even asks me not to wash my hair.”

Reunions

One of the most important aspects of Lunar New Year is spending time with family. Pamela Chua, Singapore Graduate Recruiter, visits the homes of all her relatives. “Each of us brings along two mandarin oranges as a symbol of good luck.”

New Clothes

FDM Singapore’s Matthias Goh follows a family tradition of purchasing new clothes before the first day of Lunar New Year. HR Executive Matthias, says: “We will gather our families on the eve of New Year for a reunion dinner. On the first few days, families will wear their new clothes and gather together somewhere for house visits.”

Decorations

It’s common to see calligraphy posted around during Lunar New Year. The calligraphy is written on red paper in black or gold ink and represents good wishes and put up as decorations. Pamela spends the New Year helping put decorations up such as paper cuttings and flowers around the house as well as stocking up on traditional goodies and drinks to welcome guests when they visit her home.

Red Pockets

It’s a tradition to give red pockets (envelopes) at Lunar New Year to your friends and family. The pocket contains money, to symbolise wishes and good luck for the year ahead. Children or unmarried members of the younger generation receive these and the boss of a company may give them to their employees. A crisp bill should be placed inside the pocket, so be sure to get to the bank early to avoid the long queues!

Thanks to technology and platforms like WeChat, digital red pockets can be given. Since they are digital you can send to friends or family far away or multiple ones at once. Singapore Graduate Recruiter Wenting He’s family creates a group in WeChat and sends red pockets for group members to race to ‘snatch’ it.

Food

As with Lunar New Year activities and decorations, the dishes are created to give blessings for the new year. Both the names and looks are symbols of wishes for prosperity, happiness and auspiciousness. There are several items which are deemed as ‘lucky foods’ during the holiday:

  • Fish – An increase in prosperity
  • Dumplings – Chinese dumplings are a traditional dish eaten on New Year’s Eve and symbolise wealth
  • Spring Rolls – Their golden cylindrical shape represents gold bars, which symbolise wealth and prosperity in the new year
  • Tangyuan – Represent family togetherness (also known as Sweet Rice Balls)
  • Good Fortune Fruit – Symbolises fullness and wealth
  • Niangao – Known as Glutinous Rice Cake and said to bring a higher income or higher position
  • Longevity Noodles – are said to bring happiness and longevity

 Greetings and blessings

There are multiple greeting and blessings for the New Year, with variations for even the most basic “Happy New Year!”

In Mainland China most blessings start off with 祝你 (hope you will/can/have) and then followed by the wishes for example - 财源滚滚 (Great abundance of wealth))

When giving red pockets or oranges and wishing your family, friends or colleagues a happy new year you can use some of the following phrases:

 

Simplified Chinese Traditional Chinese English meaning
新年快乐

xin nian kuai le

新年快樂

sun nin fai lok

Happy New Year
心想事成

xin xiang shi cheng

心想事成

sum soeng si sing

May all your wishes come true
身体健康

shen ti jian kang

身體健康

sun tai kin hong

Wish you good health
恭喜发财

gong xi fa cai

恭喜發財

Kung hei fat choi

Wish you wealth and prosperity
事业有成

shi ye you cheng

事業有成

si yip yau sing

Wish you every success in your career

We wish you all prosperity and good fortune for the year of the Pig!

Read more Diversity and Inclusion news from our blog:

Featured image credit: Photo by Elvir K on Unsplash


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