[Updated] Chinese New Year Spring Festivities Fifteen Days Guide
Chinese New Year, the grandest festival for the Chinese people, is celebrated for fifteen days.
According to the oldest traditions, this fifteen-day guide will help you follow specific things on certain days.
Chinese New Year Festivities in Malaysia Are Uniquely Different
The Chinese community in Malaysia originally migrated from China. Over the centuries, the customs and celebrations here are different from Mainland China’s observation of the spring festivals.
When is the Chinese New Year celebrated in 2020?
Chinese New Year falls on Saturday, 25 January 2020.
The year of the metal rat (2020) officially starts on January 25.
What is the difference between Chinese Calendar Dates and Gregorian Calendar Dates?
Chinese New Year celebration is based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which records a new moon’s start.
The ‘Gregorian’ calendar traditionally use in the West, which always starts every 1 January.
According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the first day of the first lunar month, Chinese New Year, falls strictly from January 21 to February 20.
What is the Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival and is the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar.
In Chinese tradition, each year is named after one of twelve animals that feature in the Chinese zodiac.
What are the animals in the Chinese Zodiac?
The Chinese zodiac is a repeating cycle of 12 years. Each year is related to an animal sign and its reputed attributes.
The 12 animals represented are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
How did the Rat get to be the first of all the zodiac animals?
According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order would decide the order of zodiac animals they arrived at his party.
The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they arrived at the finish line, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox, becoming first.
What animal year is 2020?
A Rat year occurs every 12 years. The Zodiacal Rat Years include 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, and 2020.
What are the characteristics of the Year of the Rat?
In the West, Rats have are symbolic of physical squalor dishonourable behaviour.
In China, the Rat Chinese zodiac sign symbolizes strong vitality and intelligence. These Asian cousins are blessed with many attractive qualities of symbolism.
People born in the year of the rat are generally born with the zodiac rat characteristics. They are believed to be very industrious and thrifty, diligent, and positive.
They love to enshrine, collect and they have a keen intuition able to foretell dangers.
What does the Year of the Rat symbolize?
Symbolizing Strong Vitality
One reason is that the Rat has a strong reproductive capacity with a high survival rate, and about 5,000 babies are born to one female rat each year. The other reason is the Rat’s fertility.
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: Zi
Wu Xing (The Five Elements): Shui (Water)
Yin Yang: Yang
Rats are clever, quick thinkers; successful, but content with living a quiet and peaceful life.
Is the Year of the Rat Lucky?
According to Chinese astrology, 2020 is a great year of fortune and luck.
People born in the year of Rat have good fortune in wealth and career. Their salary may increase, and they might get promoted and pass some qualification exams and get the certificates.
In the aspect of health, they may have some respiratory system disease and heart problem.
Source: Travel China Guide
Lucky Prayers, Astrology, and Fortune Seeking for Chinese New Year
For the Chinese, fortune-seeking through prayers and astrology is the norm as most will ensure that their luck in finance, romance, marriage, and relationships in the workplace is good.
This is the reason for the popularity of TV astrologers and Feng Shui master giving general readings. Taoists will seek out personal consultation and arm themselves with good luck charms, amulets, and crystals for protection.
How is the Chinese New Year celebrated?
Chinese New Year is a time for families to be reunited and be together.
The family members are expected to be home to celebrate the festival together with the matriarch and patriarch in the family home.
The New Year’s Eve dinner is called ‘reunion dinner,’ and is the most important meal for the Chinese people.
How long is the Chinese New Year festival?
The Chinese New Year preparations start on the 23rd or 24th day of the Chinese calendar’s 12th lunar month.
The festival ends on the 15th day of the first lunar month in the following year in the Chinese calendar.
Chinese New Year Spring Festivities Fifteen Days Guide – Preparation & Auspicious Days
23rd day of the 12th lunar month (Jan. 28, 2019) – Appease and Send off the Kitchen God 3
In Chinese traditional culture, the Kitchen God (Stove God) is a domestic god believed to look after a family’s nourishment and protect the hearth and family members.
Every year, the Kitchen God will ascend to the heavens to report to the Jade Emperor about each family’s daily affairs. Based on the report, the Jade Emperor will decide whether or not to reward this family.
In most homes, the Kitchen God is honoured in the form of a paper image hung above the family’s stove.
Every family will appease the Kitchen God with prayers, candy, sweet cakes, drinks, beans to flatter him.
Chinese New Year Glutinous Rice Cake 甜粿 Tnee Kueh “sweet cake.”
The Tnee Kueh (年糕 Niángāo in Mandarin) is a traditional Chinese New Year recipe. In Chinese, Niángāo sounds like “‘getting higher every year.”
This means a great improvement to your business and life.
The main ingredients of Tnee Kueh are glutinous rice flour and sugar.
The mixture is poured into banana leaf-lined containers and steamed.
Nowadays, homemade Tnee Kueh is not easily available.
Many Malaysians use store-bought Tnee Kueh in plastic moulds, which are also sold in hypermarkets.
These steamed sticky glutinous rice cakes are used for prayers during the Chinese New Year to the Kitchen God.
The Kitchen God’s lips are sealed with Tnee Kueh to sweeten the report.
As a result, the Jade Emperor may not punish the family, and everyone lives safe and sound during the next year.
23rd day of 12th lunar month (Jan. 17, 2020) – Worship Kitchen God
On the appointed day, this image is taken down.
The image is burned to send the spirit off, only to be welcomed again on the Lunar New Year’s first day.
On New Year’s Eve, the family hangs a new image of the Kitchen God, and he receives a warm welcome to look after the family for the upcoming year.
After prayers to the Kitchen God, the family will have an ancestor’s worship.
Keep Your Pantry Well Stocked
The hypermarkets and China speciality stores are normally jammed packed a week before the Chinese New Year.
Everyone stocks up before businesses close on New Year’s Eve.
Most of your shopping will focus on speciality food and drinks.
This is also a time to buy or make paper decorations like spring couplets for the home.
Fresh flowering plants and potted lime trees are bought and placed outside the front door.
Tray of Togetherness
“Tray of Togetherness,” representing good fortune, is also known simply as the Candy Tray is normally filled on Chinese New Year Eve.
This is used to welcome guests and relatives who drop by for a visit.
What are the auspicious items for the Candy Tray?
- Candied melon – growth and good health
- Red watermelon seeds – dyed red to symbolize joy, happiness, truth, and sincerity
- Lychee – strong family relationships
- Dried Kumquats – prosperity (gold)
- Coconut Candy – togetherness
- Peanuts – long life
- Longnan – many good sons
- Lotus seed – many children
- Lucky Red Candy & Sweets
- Gold Chocolate Coins
- Candied Winter Melon
- Pistachios & Cashews
- Candied Lotus Root
Auspicious snacks know to bring good luck for the Chinese New Year.
Auspicious snacks include Mandarin oranges, Tangerines, Pomelos, Groundnuts, Roasted Pumpkin, or Melon Seeds.
The traditionalists believe that eating eight types of auspicious foods will bestow good fortune upon the family.
The Chinese believe that abundance at Chinese New Year will carry forward into the next year, so make sure your rice bins are full.
24th day of 12th lunar month (Jan. 18, 2020) – House Cleaning
According to the traditional schedule of Chinese New Year preparation, cleaning is done on this day.
However, many families start weeks ahead of the Spring Festival.
The Chinese spring cleans their home.
In Chinese, cleaning the dust means driving away from old things.
It is also the symbolic cleansing of last year’s troubles and putting on your best foot forward for the next year.
Three Days before Clean your home top to bottom
All vessels, curtains, beddings, and every corner need to be cleaned.
Every nook and cranny of the house must be swept with bamboo leaves or a broom in preparation for the New Year.
This is the time to tackle your entire to-do list.
- Paint your home
- Mend your clothes
- Make repairs to your home.
- Sweep, scrub and clean every nook, cranny, and surface
- Throw away unused or broken items
- Change new curtains
Get your kids in on the act by having them clean their rooms.
The Chinese hope to welcome the festival and the God of Prosperity in a clean environment.
Remember that there’s no cleaning allowed on New Year’s Day, as the Chinese believe this will sweep away good luck.
25th day of 12th lunar month (Jan. 19, 2020) – Make Bean Curd
Traditionally making bean curd is a practice in some places in China.
It is believed that the Jade Emperor will visit to inspect the human world to verify that the report from the Kitchen God is true.
To testify that what the Kitchen God said is true; people eat cheap bean curd to show that they live a frugal life.
Thus they can avoid punishment from the Jade Emperor.
26th day of 12th lunar month (Jan. 20, 2020) – Buy Meat
In ancient China, most of the common people are very poor.
They could only afford to eat pork during this festival.
On this day, butchering pigs reared by every family is the main event.
So is buying pork to reserve for the Chinese New Year Festivities.
Most of us eat meat in our daily diet; however, some older folks will keep the tradition and buy some meat.
27th day of the 12th lunar month (Feb. 1, 2019) – Shopping & Bathing
Shopping is the most important activity on this day where they buy items for the next year.
- Buy new clothes
- Buy new pyjamas
- Buy new underwear
- Buy new shoes
- Buy new handbags
What are Chinese New Year Decorations?
The Chinese will buy fireworks, Chinese New Year decorations, couplets, and toys for the children.
In the homes, the vertical red paper banner with couplets like “big prosperity coming in a big way” or “peace on your coming and going” is hung.
The red banner or an auspicious ‘chai’ bearing well wishes of prosperity and wealth is hung over the front door.
In the folk custom, the Chinese will have baths and wash all the clothes to remove bad luck from the previous year.
The significance of Chinese New Year Decorations
- Chinese Red Lanterns — Drives Off Bad Luck
- Door Couplets — Best Wishes for the Coming Year
- Paper Cuttings — Luck and Happiness
- New Year Paintings — a Symbol of New Year’s Greetings
- Upside-Down Fu Characters — Luck ‘Poured Out’
- Oranges and Tangerines – Luck and Wealth
- Kumquat Trees — a Wish for Wealth and Good Luck
- Blooming Flowers — Wishes for a Prosperous New Year
28th day of 12th lunar month (Jan. 22, 2020) – Make Steamed Bread
In China, the Chinese will make steamed loaves of bread. Paper-cuts are done on this day and are used to decorate the rooms and pasted on the windows in homes.
They will start the food preparation for all the days, from starting the Chinese New Year on the 1st day of the 1st lunar month to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day.
In ancient times, nothing could be bought during that period.
Settle your debts
For the Chinese, the notion of spring cleaning extends to financial affairs and personal squabbles.
Make sure to pay off your credit cards, settle any outstanding unpaid financial debts.
It is also important to make peace with that troublesome person in your life.
One Week Before Chinese New Year, all unpaid financial debts are collected and settled.
Wise Elders will advise the younger family member to get your mind and body ready for the new year.
- Go for a walk to clear your head.
- Visit the barber or hairstylist for a fresh haircut, perm, or even coloured.
- Buy a new set of clothes (red for good luck!) This includes getting new pyjamas and underwear.
- Generally, substitute bad thoughts with optimism.
Start cooking One Day Before Chinese New Year.
If you’re planning a traditional reunion dinner with 8 or more courses, then you’ll want to start cooking the day before.
- Focus on the dishes that are served cold.
- Start with marinating the ingredients overnight.
- The dishes that require a longer braising can be started ahead of time.
- This is also your last chance to ensure that you have all the fresh, raw, and dried ingredients you need.
- Many shops are jammed packed, in case a last-minute shopping.
- There are a few wet markets that are opened throughout the night for fresh meats and fowl.
- In case you need anything, you make need to make this trip.
Stuff Your Ang Pow (red envelopes) with New Money
Remember to visit your bank early to request crisp bills, make sure you have all the necessary denominations.
Get ready to fill up the Ang Pow for the many opportunities to exchange red envelopes during Chinese New Year.
30th day of 12th lunar month – New Year’s Eve (Jan. 24, 2020)
Chinese New Year’s Eve is the most important and cheerful day to prepare your reunion dinner.
The family reunion dinner, staying up all night on its Eve, is part of the traditional festivities.
This is a busy time dedicated to preparing and cooking lots of auspicious foods intended to shower wealth, luck, and success on the family.
The must-haves for Chinese New Year play on the symbolism of sound and colours that interesting all denote prosperity and wealth in one way or another.
For the Chinese, working hard and saving money is a must.
The older generation may be frugal in daily expenses, but for the Lunar New Year, they will spend their hard-earned money on good nutritious food.
Spending on premium ingredients
For this, the Chinese will splurge on the reunion meal, which may cost several hundreds of dollars.
The food is cooked in huge amounts and intentionally leftover to signify “abundance.”
The family matriarch takes command, gets the household in order, and plans traditional festive dishes.
All dishes have auspicious names or use ingredients that sound auspicious.
The reunion dinner has numerous dishes and traditionally includes meats like chicken, pork, prawn, fish, fish maw, prawns, abalone, and dried oysters.
Choice ingredients include lotus seeds, ginkgo nuts, dried bean curd, bamboo shoots, lettuce, mushrooms, dumplings, long noodles, and black hair-like algae “fat choy,” which literally “hair vegetable” in Chinese.
Reunion Steamboat Dinner
A Chinese New Year Steamboat Reunion Dinner is very popular. Instead of a sit down formal dinner, many families prefer a more casual Steamboat.
Since family members may arrive home at different times, this is a good practice. Everyone can cook and eat to their liking when they reach the family home.
The Matriarch will prepare a chicken soup base and pieces of fresh seafood, meat, and vegetables.
Normally some garlic oil, chilli, and soy dipping sauces are prepared for this meal.
Steamboat for Chinese New Year
Traditionally the Chinese believe in preparing extra food for leftovers* for the following 1-2 days.
You can use the leftovers to make soupy noodles or other dishes in the coming days.
Leftovers symbolize lots of savings in the coming year.
Some families have a pot of cooked rice on the table, even for a steamboat dinner.
Whether you eat it or not, this is a symbol of prosperity.
Sometimes a bowl of freshly cooked rice is left on the Kitchen God’s altar.
The colour of the mould that appears will foretell the family’s fortune for the coming year.
A yellow-coloured mould indicates good fortune!
Auspicious steamboat ingredients include fresh seafood.
- Prawns are a symbol of happiness (sounds like “ha” in Cantonese, hence 笑 “哈哈”)
- Fish & abalone is a symbol of abundance (年年有余/年年包有余)
- Yong Tau Foo (which are pieces of food with stuffed fish paste)
- Dumplings which resemble gold ingots (ancient Chinese currency)
- Long noodles signify longevity.
Inauspicious Chinese New Year food
Inauspicious food is considered so due to the sound of their names.
- Sour and bitter food
Bitter gourd should never be served during the Chinese New Year.
* Do note that certain foods (such as tau pok aka stuffed bean curd puffs and fresh Yong Tau Foo pieces) do not keep well overnight in the fridge and can easily turn bad and sour the next day.
The significance of the Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner
Like the Christmas dinner in western countries, the reunion dinner has great significance to the Chinese people, as it is the time for all family members to reunite together.
On the eve of the Lunar New Year, the family unites for the grandest annual event; multi-generational family reunion dinner in the evening.
The feasting starts with The Reunion Dinner on the Chinese New Year’s Eve, where a large gathering of family members heading home to eat and unite.
This is held annually for family members to get together to celebrate.
This is a time for laughter, eating and drinking, and merrymaking.
Eating out during Chinese New Year
Preparing an auspicious feast for the Chinese New Year need not be stressful or difficult.
Modern families prefer not to cook and now celebrate at restaurants and hotels where Chinese course meals are prevalent and sought after.
Many of the dishes featured have auspicious names similar to “prosperity.”
The Chinese believe that having one will lead to greater prosperity and abundance.
Hotels and restaurants offer a Reunion Dinner Package to attract modern working couples and their families who want to have a great reunion dinner but haven’t the skill or time to cook.
Chinese course meals are trendy and sought after, and the feasting continues.
The celebration lasts for 15 days, from the 1st to 15th day of the first lunar month.
Some Chinese businesses close for a week or even up to 15 days for Chinese New Year.
Pass the time until midnight and celebrate the Chinese New Year
Welcome the New Year, opening all of your windows and doors.
At midnight, many places will strike bells to pray for the next smooth year.
The Chinese will set off firecrackers at midnight to send off the old year, scare off evil spirits, and welcome good luck into your home.
At the stroke of midnight, the New Year’s zodiac animal, The Pig, enters, takes its throne and bestows a renewed sense of hope.
What is the colour to wear on the first day of Chinese New Year?
Wear Red. Red is a lucky colour as it brings good fortune and luck.
Wear red during Chinese New Year to have a good Year of the Pig and keep evil spirits at bay.
What are the unlucky colours to avoid during Chinese New Year?
White or black clothes as these are traditional mourning colours.
Do not wear new clothes that are damaged as such clothes is said to bring bad luck.
Is there any first day Chinese New Year Taboos?
Chinese people believe that, as the Spring Festival is the start of a new year, you should not do many things to affect your luck in the coming year.
Traditionally many taboos are associated with the New Year Festival.
The modern urban families in larger cities and the younger generation are more practical and may not follow these taboos anymore.
What should you not if you celebrate Chinese New Year in Malaysia?
Chinese New Year Taboos – Things You Should Not Do During Chinese New Year
- Avoid taking medicine.
- Don’t sweep or take out the garbage.
- Don’t eat porridge and meat for breakfast.
- Don’t wash clothes and hair.
- Needlework should not be done.
- A married daughter is not allowed to visit the house of her parents.
Top 15 Chinese New Year Taboos
- Avoid taking medicine or brewing herbal medicine.
- Don’t eat meat for breakfast out of respect for the Buddhist gods believed to be against animals’ killing.
- No killing in the Spring Festival as blood sighted is considered an ill omen, which will cause misfortunes such a bloody disaster.
- Avoid eating porridge and meat for breakfast as it is considered a pauper’s meal and a bad omen for starting the year “poor.”
- Don’t sweep or take out the garbage, as this is associated with sweeping wealth or good fortune away from the house.
- Keep needles, knives, and scissors in a safe place to prevent an accident.
- Don’t wash clothes and hair on the first and second day as it is not a good thing to “wash one’s fortune away” at the beginning of the New Year.
- A married daughter is not allowed to visit her parents’ house on the first day, as this is believed to bring bad luck to the parents, causing economic hardship for the family.
- The cry of a child is believed to bring bad luck to the family, so parents do their best to keep children from crying by whatever means possible.
- Breaking tools or other equipment during this period is associated with a loss of wealth.
- Do not visit the hospital except in cases of extreme emergency.
- Take care not to have your pocket picked, as this is believed to having your whole wealth in the coming year stolen.
- Do not lend on New Year’s Day, and all debts have to be paid by New Year’s Eve.
- The rice jar must be full as having no rice to cook during the New Year period is an ill omen.
- Don’t give certain gifts, like clocks, scissors, and pears, as they have a bad meaning in Chinese culture.
What do Chinese do during Chinese New Year Festivities?
Chinese New Year is a time to honour the elders. The Chinese will visit their relatives, starting with the oldest members of their extended families.
Visits typically from morning until evening.
The younger generation with their families will make rounds bearing gifts and wishes.
Many times dinners are also held in honour of senior members of the family.
Why do Chinese gamble during Chinese New Year Festivities?
Chinese people love all forms of gambling. For families to amuse themselves, betting in games such as mahjong and various card games is common.
1st day of 1st lunar month – Chinese New Year (Jan. 25, 2020)
Softly enter the First Day of Chinese New Year.
After the midnight firecrackers and laughter, New Year’s Day is generally a quiet affair.
People emerge quietly from their homes, dressed in new clothes, and are on their best behaviour.
No one works, cooks, or cleans.
Unlucky words are avoided at all costs—no swearing or uttering of foul language and negativity.
After the meal, it is the happiest time for the younger generations, because they can get red envelopes from the older generations.
What are the Chinese New Year Wishes?
The children and younger family members will greet their elders with a hearty “Keong Hee Huat Chye,” which means “congratulations and prosperity” on the 1st. Day of Chinese New Year.
In return, the children and single unmarried adults will receive lucky red packets (and pow) containing cash from parents, married family members, and friends.
Chinese New Year Greetings
Nowadays, some Chinese prefer to say “Xin Nian Kuai Le,” which simply means Happy New Year instead of focusing on the spirit of togetherness rather than more material gains.
Now, sending greeting and wishes is through social media text messages, e-mails, and video calls.
What are the Chinese New Year Greetings?
They greet neighbours with good luck messages and remember that New Year’s Day sets the tone for the rest of the year.
What are the Chinese New Year’s auspicious snacks?
Auspicious snacks offered to visitors include mandarin oranges, groundnuts, and roasted pumpkin or melon seeds.
The traditionalists believe that eating eight types of auspicious foods will bestow good fortune upon the family.
What do the Chinese eat for New Year Day?
After the Reunion Dinner’s lavish meal, the family eats leftovers from the last dinner.
The Hakkas will normally eat a vegetarian meal on the first day of the Chinese New Year.
The Cantonese will have their vegetarian meal on the second day.
2nd day of 1st lunar month (Jan. 26, 2020) – Worship God of Wealth
According to the Chinese New Year schedule, the Chinese will worship the God of Wealth today.
It is also the time for married daughters to visit their birth parents and relatives because they could not go back to their birth families in daily life in ancient China.
Even though daughters now can go to visit their birth parents at any time, this custom remains.
The 2nd day is a time to pay a Chinese New Year’s visit and send blessings to the senior members of extended families and other relatives.
3rd day of 1st lunar month (Jan. 27, 2020) – Stay at Home
Known as the Beggar’s Day, the Chinese will stay home and not visit each other on this inauspicious day.
6th day of the 1st lunar month (Jan. 28, 2020) – Prayers at Snake Temple
Devotees will pray in the temple on Chor Soo Kong’s birthday and offer eggs to the temple’s guardian snakes.
7th day of 1st lunar month (Jan. 31, 2020) – Birthday of Human
In Chinese mythology, humanity was created on this day. So this day is the birthday of humanity.
In China, on this day, the Chinese will use seven kinds of vegetables and rice to make porridge in celebrating their birthday.
“Yee Sang,” a dish popular in Malaysia for the festivities, originated here in other countries, and China does not highlight the dish during the celebrations.
What is Yee Sang?
“Yee Sang,” also known as the “prosperity toss,” consists of raw fish, shredded vegetables, lime, pickled ginger, and various fried crunchiest.
Smoked salmon is commonly used instead of raw fish to be mixed and tossed.
“Yee Sang” has various colours; mixing them and tossing them in unison represents a joyous celebration.
The higher the ingredients are tossed with their chopsticks with shouts of “Loh Hei”, the greater the prosperity they will enjoy throughout the year.
8th day of the 1st lunar month (Feb. 1, 2020) – Hokkien New Year Eve
On the 8th day, the Hokkiens will rush to the wet markets to buy the essential items needed for the midnight prayers celebrated on the 9th day of the Lunar calendar’s first month.
Hokkien people celebrate thanksgiving worship on the 8th Day as the “Phai Thien Kong,” which means “praying the Heaven God or Jade Emperor.”
“Pai Thnee Kong” is grander than the first day of Chinese New Year. The Malaysian Hokkien community welcomes their New Year on a ninth day.
The Hokkien New Year honours the birthday of the Jade Emperor God
Why did the Hokkien celebrate Chinese New Year on the 9th Day?
The Hokkien New Year legend, “Pai Thnee Kong,” literally means ‘praying the Heaven God.’
During the Chinese New Year of the Ming Dynasty, bandits raided the province of Hokkien.
These intruders, however, robbed and burned down villages, attacked and killed the villagers.
The villages’ people escaped from their burnt villages during the night and hid in the sugarcane fields.
There the villagers prayed to Thnee Kong” for salvation.
The intruders spent many days trying to locate and hunt the Hokkien people to no avail.
Finally, on the ninth day of that Chinese New Year, the bandits gave up and returned to their region.
The Hokkiens emerged from the sugar cane fields, praising the celestial deities’ blessings.
They were grateful to the sugarcane plants for saving them from destruction.
As the 9th Day of the Chinese New Year coincided with Heaven God’s birthday, they decided to make votive offerings and thanksgiving prayers to the Jade Emperor for their salvation.
Thanksgiving Prayer of Gratitude – Hokkien “Pai Thnee Kong”
Hokkien New Year Eve
In the Lunar calendar, the Hokkiens start their prayers at 11 pm on the 8th day of Chinese New Year, but preparations start well.
Although these prayers are traditionally performed only by Hokkiens, more and more non-Hokkien people have begun to pray for a good year ahead.
On the eve of the 9th day, the Hokkiens set up a prayer altar and table (draped in a red tablecloth) full of food, which is offered to the Jade Emperor.
A pair of sugar canes is an absolute MUST and is used to decorate the altar table.
The Hokkiens usually placed sugar cane stalks on each side of the offering table at the house’s front door.
The pair of the sugarcane symbolizes unity, cooperation, and strength.
The sugarcane itself is a symbol of harmony and a token that can bring good and ’sweet’ results.
The very straightness of the sugarcane stem also ensures that the Hokkiens can become a clan of honest and sincere people.
Thus, in all Hokkien celebrations, the sugarcane plant is given prominence.
The table is beautifully arranged with all the praying paraphernalia, including big red candles, Dragon Joss Sticks, and big joss papers known as Ti-Kong-Kim.
The burnt offering is the gold Ti-Kong-Kim papers folded into elaborate shapes to look like the ancient Chinese gold ingot.
This folded paper can be stacked and crafted into beautiful paper pineapples.
Kim Cua (folded pieces of gold paper).
These papers are hung from the sugarcanes before being burnt as a thanksgiving offering to Thnee Kong.
Like the food offering, this joss paper offering symbolises asking Thnee Kong to bless the Hokkien clan with good fortune.
Prayer Altars for “Pai Thnee Kong”
A table altar is usually set up in front of the house adorned with sugar cane stalks filled to the brim with bountiful offerings.
Some of the most popular food offertory items include
Delicious Traditional Cakes
- huat kueh (pink prosperity cakes)
- tnee kueh (sticky glutinous rice cake),
- ang Koo (red tortoise cakes)
- mee koo (red-coloured buns)
- bright pink miniature pagodas cakes
- bee koh (flattened sweetened glutinous rice)
- whole roasted pigs
- roasted chicken
- roasted duck
- boiled crab
Fresh fruits are decorated with red symbols
- Chinese pear or Nashi pear (Lai Ya)
- Pineapples (Ong Lai)
- Red Apples (Peng Ko)
- bottles of liquor
When is “Pai Thnee Kong” Prayers?
The Hokkien start their “Pai Thnee Kong” prayers from 11 pm.
The prayer ends depending on the throwing of the “pua-play”.
This is a pair of kidney shape wooden blocks that the Taoists use to communicate with the Deities or even the ancestors.
The prayer could well end as late at 2 am.
It depends on the throwing of the pua-puay, which signifies that the deities have completed their meal.
At the stroke of midnight, piles of folded Ti-Kong-Kim are set ablaze.
The family members then took the stalks of sugarcane from the altars and threw these into the flames.
Skyrockets scream and firecrackers thunder as the night sky is set ablaze with fireworks to mark the beginning of the ninth day as the Hokkien people’s survival.
In George Town, this celebration best witness at the Chew Clan Jetty at Weld Quay.
9th day of the 1st lunar month (Feb. 2, 2020) – Hokkien New Year
On this day, the Hokkien rest from the eve’s prayers and celebrations.
Hakka Community Celebrate the 1st and 9th Day with a Vegetarian Meal.
Eating nine kinds of vegetables on the ninth day of the Chinese New Year is a must for the Hakka community as numerous offerings are set out in the temples’ courtyard for the Jade Emperor’s birthday.
15th day of 1st lunar month (Feb. 8, 2020) – Lantern Festival, Chap Goh Meh (Chinese Valentine)
The 15th day is the first full moon day after the Chinese New Year Festivities.
The night is referred to as Chap Goh Meh (Hokkien for the 15th night)
This also refers to the Lantern Festival.
At night tourists and locals will enjoy the evening’s parade of floats and lanterns as the celebrations wind down to mark the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.
Chinese New Year in Malaysia Has Unique Penang Chingay Street Parade
In George Town, the Chap Goh Meh (Chinese Valentine) is marked with the Hokkien community’s boisterous celebration of the Chingay – a street parade with acrobats balancing huge flags hung on bamboo poles.
The parade moves slowly along the busy streets of George Town, to the beat of gongs, drums, and cymbals to lion and dragon dancers and stilt walkers.
When the sun sets, the celebration takes off to the golden era of the Babas and Nyonyas.
The Dondang Sayang troop will go around George Town in their illuminated buses to sing their pantuns and serenade the Chap Goh Meh revellers.
Chap Goh Meh Parades During Chinese New Year in Malaysia
In the olden days, young unmarried women only get to go out once a year.
The maidens ride in cars along the Gurney Drive or Esplanade.
Chap Goh Meh is an opportunity for maidens to be “seen” by young gentlemen.
Finding love through oranges during Chap Goh Meh
The orange tossing tradition was said to have originated from the Hokkien community.
It started in the southern part of China in the 19th century.
In Penang, single women and even tourists joined in the orange throwing festival.
Many single ladies hope their Mr Right will pick up the oranges they throw during the Chap Goh Meh.
They wrote their names and Instagram handles on the oranges.
Some hopeful ladies even included their phone numbers in the hope of finding their one true love.
The girls will throw mandarin oranges into the sea while expressing the wish to meet a good husband.
For the love of Dondang Sayang and Duelling Pantuns
The Dondang Sayang troop goes around town in their illuminated buses.
The performers sing their pants and serenade the Chap Goh Meh revellers.
Everything goes back to normal after Chap Goh Meh.
Peranakan New Year
Selamat Taon Baru and ‘Panjang Panjang Umur’ are the Peranakan greetings that show respect for the elders.
The Penang Hokkien Chinese community greet each other “Keong Hee Huat Chye” during Chinese New Year. Now for the BEST part of being Malaysian.
Keong Hee Huat Chye!
Source: Travel China Guide