Disappearing Chinese New Year Traditions

Written by Matteo Updated Dec. 13, 2021

As the most important traditional festival in China, there are lots of folk customs for the Chinese New Year. However, some traditions are disappearing with the rapid development of China.

In this article, we will introduce some uncommon customs and disappearing Chinese New Year traditions.

1. Worshipping the Kitchen God

At one time, Chinese people would worship the Kitchen God before the Spring Festival and then send him away.

It is said that Kitchen God would go to heaven and report to Jade Emperor on the last day of the lunar new year. Thus, Chinese people would clean the house before lunar New Year's Eve. Then prepare some food and fruits to worship Kitchen God so that Kitchen God would say some good words in front of Jade Emperor.

Nowadays, people will still clean their houses but no longer worship Kitchen God. It is only found in some rural areas and hardly in town.

2. Kowtowing to the Elders

wearing red
The younger generation is greeting the elders during the Chinese New Year.

Kowtow is an old Chinese ritual. In the past, Chinese people kowtow to their elders to show their deep respect. They would kneel and bow low to have their head touching the ground.

On the first day of the Chinese New Year, the whole family went out together to pay New Year's greetings to the elders of each family. Everyone was kowtowing to the elders in the yard.

Then the elders will give young people red envelopes. We cannot find this custom anymore because the young generation feels embarrassed.

3. Eating Chinese New Year Glue Pudding

Chinese people will have a reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve and used to have glue pudding the next morning. We call it “yuan bao”.

Now only a few Chinese people insist on this custom. Most people think Glue Pudding is too sweet after a particularly rich and substantial meal on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Read Chinese New Year Desserts to find out more lucky snacks eaten on Chinese New Year.

4. Eating Cured Meat

Chinese people usually make cured meat when winter is coming. A lot of salt will be used when making cured meat. It is prepared to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

However, young people seldom know how to make cured meat now and even doubt whether it is healthy. Nowadays, young people pay more attention to the variety and health of food.

Read Chinese New Year Food to learn more about lucky new year food and its meaning.

5. Eating Sugar Melons

The sugar melon, (called Tanggua in Chinese), is a Melon-shaped candy made from maltose.

It is said that, on Lunar New Year’s Eve, Kitchen God goes back to heaven and reports to the Jade Emperor. People specially made sugar melons to sacrifice. After sacrifice, children could eat sugar melons.

In the old days, children didn’t have too many candies to eat so sugar melons are popular. Now many people may have hyperglycemia and children are not short of candies. Thus, sugar melons are gradually disappearing.

6. Putting up Papercut of the Door God and Wealth God

Chinese Door Gods
Chinese Door Gods

Chinese people used to put up Door God and Wealth God paper cut to welcome the Gods on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Putting the Wealth God upside down on the wall means the New Year will be smooth and prosperous. The pronunciation of “Wealth God is upside down.” is similar to “Wealth God is coming.” in Chinese.

In the old days, these auspicious handcrafted artworks are necessary for the Chinese New Year. But now they are gradually out of Chinese people’s sight.

Read Chinese New Year Decorations to know some other lucky decorations used on Chinese New year.

7. Putting up Taofu (Peach Wood Charms)

Chinese people used to put up peach wood charms (桃符 táo fú) against evil on the gate door. Then people wrote couplets on red paper to replace peach wood charms.

Peachwood charms cannot be found now. Although some elders would like to buy peach wood charms, they don’t know where to buy one. 

Read the Top 3 Chinese New Year legends to learn the story of Taofu (peach wood charms)

8. No Going out on the First Day of the Lunar New Year

The elders often told children not to talk nonsense on the first day of the lunar new year, not to wash hair, not to wash clothes, not to sweep the floor, and not to visit relatives.

Now Chinese people don’t care about the taboos anymore. Although they hope to have good fortune in the upcoming lunar new year, they think it is inconvenient to abide by taboos.

Many people work in other provinces and the Chinese New Year holiday is only 7 days. If they abode all taboos, they wouldn’t have too much time to be with their family members.

9. Setting off Fireworks and Firecrackers

Setting off Fireworks
Setting off Fireworks

In the past, people set off firecrackers to drive evil away. Chinese people used to set off fireworks on Chinese New Year's eve to welcome the new year and set off firecrackers on the first day of the lunar new year to drive evil away and bring good luck.

Now firecrackers and fireworks are banned in many places for the sake of the environment and safety. As time goes by, burning fireworks during the Chinese New Year will become a thing of the past.

Read Chinese New Year Fireworks for more information.

10. Lightening Handmade Lanterns at the Lantern Festival

“Children ran along the street holding a small lantern.” When talking about lantern shows, this scene comes to our mind. In the past, Chinese people would lighten thousands of lanterns at the Lantern Festival. It was absolutely spectacular.

In modern times, the spectacular moment has given way to big performance shows. In the center of the city, there is usually a big show organized by the government. However, we, Chinese people, can never experience the “lantern show” of the past again.

The festivals of each nation are accumulated and formed by the culture of the nations from generation to generation. Hope some traditional customs of the Spring Festival will be inherited. However, as the year's pass, some customs will finally fade away.

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