China is an incredibly diverse country with numerous ethnicities inhabiting its different regions. While the country may come together to celebrate Chinese New Year, the way that the festival is celebrated differs greatly depending on the customs and traditions of each region. Different foods are served and different activities take place as the nation proudly showcases its range of different cultures.
Here’s how Chinese New Year is celebrated in the different regions of China.
In Northern China, paper cuttings, Chinese red knots, and symbolic couplets are stuck on windows and doorways of the family home. This is to ward off evil spirits and attract luck to the family. Red pockets, or red envelopes, are prepared and filled with lucky money to gift both younger children and respected elders in the family.
Dumplings are the most important element in a northern Chinese New Year dinner. Because of their similar shape to ancient Chinese silver ingots, they are thought to represent wealth and prosperity for the coming year. Some families will fill certain dumplings with pearls or coins and mix them in with the batch. Whoever ends up with the special lucky dumplings on their plate is said to be granted good fortune for the next year. Some also add sugar to their dumplings, so that life in the next year will be sweet.
Snacks are also a big part of Chinese New Year. Many families place bowls of melon seeds, walnuts, and peanuts to munch on while chatting with friends and relatives.
Most families in Northern China will gather at the midnight hour to see the special fireworks and watch the famous annual Spring Festival Gala on television.
Instead of hanging paper cuttings and other decorations on Chinese New Year, homes in the South of China will be decorated with pots of kumquat. The yellow fruits are said to represent wealth and luck in harvest. Fresh flowers, usually daffodils and butterfly orchids, will also be displayed. As with Northern China, families in the South distribute red pockets. The difference in the South, however, is that the amounts will fall on a lucky number like 88, 666, or 999.
In the South of China, rice cakes (niangao) are a staple dish on Chinese New Year. They are said to attract promotion to a higher position in the next year. The word niangao in Chinese means ‘increasing prosperity’. This is because the pronunciation is the same as saying ‘year high’, symbolising more fortune than the year which has passed.
In certain provinces of Southern China, like Guangdong and Fujian, rice cakes will be served with a variety of different meals. These could include hot pot, meat, and seafood dishes. Another popular dish on is soup balls (tangyuan). Tangyuan is a homophone for togetherness and family reunion, both of which are extremely important elements of Chinese New Year. Fish – another popular Chinese New Year dish in the South – has a similar pronunciation to the Chinese word for ‘surplus’. Thus it symbolises a surplus of wealth and fortune in the next year.
Snacks are another important element of Chinese New Year here, but the options differ from what is served in the North. In the South you’ll find almond cake, fried dough twists, fresh peach slices, sliced rice cakes, egg rolls, green bean cake, and asparagus rolls spread on the living room table.
Families in South China are less likely to gather around the TV and watch the Spring Festival Gala. Instead, they will most commonly, eat, chat, and drink late into the night.
In China’s Eastern regions, Chinese New Year is celebrated with spring rolls and sweet dumplings stuffed with black sesame or peanut. These sweet dumplings are also known as tangyuan and are a staple in the lunar new year. As with the Southern region, fish is another popular dish on the Chinese New Year dinner table. When eating the fish in the East, however, the head and tail must remain untouched. This symbolises having a good year ahead – from beginning to end!
In the Northeastern region of China, families will gather in the evening and play poker or mahjong in anticipation for midnight.
China’s Western region makes up almost half of the entire country and encompasses numerous different cultures. Provinces here include Xinjiang, Tibet, Szechuan, and Guizhou. Because of the huge range of ethnicities you’ll find in the West of China, the way Chinese New Year is celebrated varies widely.
Chengdu is famous for its spicy food, and heat will be a classic on Chinese New Year. Xinjiang features a large muslim population, so pork will rarely feature on the Chinese New Year dinner table. In fact, some inhabitants of the region will not celebrate the Chinese New Year at all. Szechuan families cannot have a Chinese New Year banquet without hot pot, which represents prosperity and growth in the region.
Central China is another culturally diverse region, with around 41 different ethnic groups inhabiting the area.
Chicken is the most popular dish on Chinese New Year here. The word is a homophone for the Chinese verb ‘to accumulate’. In the province of Hubei, chicken feet will be served to the head of the family, symbolising a ‘grab’ of money. Younger family members will receive chicken wings, indicating reaching high for prosperity in the near year. Family caregivers are given chicken bones to represent their role as the ‘backbone’ of the family.
In Hunan, rooster is traditionally eaten, alongside steamed fish dishes that are flavoured with lots and lots of red chilli peppers. The peppers are another symbol of luck and prosperity for the new year.
Let us help you celebrate Chinese New Year
Want an authentic Chinese New Year experience? Let us help you usher in a new year of prosperity, wealth, and fortune with an incredible banquet and immersive experience for yourself and your loved ones. Our luxury private chefs are trained in Chinese cuisine from all regions and will prepare authentic and delicious Chinese New Year catering.
We would love to make this lunar new year special for you, and we offer both private and corporate events. Our interactive Chinese New Year experience includes:
- A multi-course dinner feast,
- Table and room decorating,
- Red pockets to exchange with guests,
- Dumpling cooking classes, and
- Live traditional Chinese music.
Get in touch with our team now to start organising an intimate and memorable Chinese New Year experience now!