Chinese New Year Celebrations 2023: 15-Day Traditional Activities

Written by Sally Guo Updated Jan. 20, 2023

Chinese people do a lot of traditional activities to celebrate the Chinese New Year. It is usually celebrated for 16 days from New Year's Eve to the Lantern Festival.

However, the New Year preparations usually start half a month ahead. So, the Chinese New Year celebration can last more than one month.

In 2023, the Chinese New Year falls on Jan. 22 and the celebration ends on Feb. 5. Here is a day-by-day guide about how to celebrate Chinese New Year 2023.

Dates in Lunar Calendar 2023 Dates in Gregorian Calendar Celebrations and Activities
8th of the 12th month (Laba) Dec. 30, 2022 Worship ancestors, Eat Laba food
23rd/24th of the 12th month (Little New Year) Jan. 14/15, 2023 Worship Stove God, Clean houses, Go shopping
30th of the 12th month (Chinese New Year's Eve) Jan. 21, 2023 Decorate houses, Have reunion dinners, Watch CCTV gala, Stay up late
1st of the 1st month
(Chinese New Year's Day)
Jan. 22, 2023 Set off firecrackers, Give red envelopes, Enjoy Lion dances
Day 2 Jan. 23, 2023 Welcome sons-in-law
Day 3 Jan. 24, 2023 Stay at home
Day 4 Jan. 25, 2023 Welcome Stove God
Day 5 Jan. 26, 2023 Welcome Wealth God
Day 6 Jan. 27, 2023 Clean houses
Day 7 Jan. 28, 2023 Eat Qibao porridge
Day 8 Jan. 29, 2023 Set animals free, Return work
Day 9 Jan. 30, 2023 Set off firecrackers, Offer sacrifices
Day 10 Jan. 31, 2023 Celebrate the birthday of Stone God
Day 11 Feb. 1, 2023 Fathers-in-law entertain sons-in-law
Day 12-14 Feb. 2-4, 2023 Prepare for the Lantern Festival
15th of the 1st month (Lantern Festival) Feb. 5, 2023 Light lanterns, Guess lantern riddles, Eat Tangyuan, Set off fireworks

Pre-Chinese New Year Celebrations (Dec. 30, 2022, to Jan. 21, 2023)

Chinese New Year is the most important traditional festival in China. People usually prepare for it early before New Year’s Eve.

Laba Festival (Dec. 30, 2022): Honor Ancestors and Eat Laba Food

In northern China, there is a saying that children don’t be greedy as the new year comes soon after Laba (腊八 là bā). Laba is a traditional Chinese festival that is regarded as the prelude to the Chinese New Year.

Laba Festival is celebrated on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month. This year, it falls on December 30, 2022. Some Chinese people prepare for the coming new year since this day.

Laba was a time to honor ancestors, and pray to deities, heaven, and earth for a good harvest and good luck. Traditionally, people will eat Laba porridge, Laba garlic, Laba vinegar, Laba tofu, and Laba noodles at Laba Festival. 

Little New Year (Jan. 14/15, 2023): Honor the Stove God and Clean Houses

The Little New Year (小年 xiǎo nián) falls one week ahead of the Chinese New Year (the Big Year). In northern China, people celebrated it on the 23rd day of the last lunar month (Jan. 14, 2023), while in southern China, people celebrate it on the 24th day of the last lunar month (Jan. 15, 2023).

The Little New Year is the beginning of the whole Chinese New Year celebration. People will honor the Stove God and clean their houses during the Little New Year.

Sweeping, cleaning, and discarding things that are no longer needed is a way to say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new year.

It's also important to do the cleaning in advance as people believed that cleaning houses on the first days of the new year will deter good fortune.

Chinese New Year's Eve (Jan. 21, 2023): 6 Traditions and Activities

As the last day of the lunar year, Chinese New Year's Eve (除夕 chú xī) is the day before Chinese New Year. It is a grand reunion time for the whole Chinese family. People will participate in activities lots of activities to celebrate the coming new year.

Chinese New Year's Eve Traditions
Chinese New Year's Eve Traditions

1. Putting Up New Year Decorations

Spring Couplets

Putting up Spring Couplets

People believe that auspicious decorations can drive away evil spirits and bring good luck. 

On Chinese New Year’s Eve, Chinese people will hang red lanterns in front of their houses, put on Chinese New Year couplets on doors, and put flowers with lucky symbols inside their houses.

Find more new year lucky things on Chinese New Year Decoration.

2. Worshiping Ancestors

Chinese people believe their ancestors underground also need to have a great time for the New Year. Their ancestors need to eat before themselves.

To worship ancestors, Usually, before the family reunion dinner, people offer sacrifices of meat, wine, fruit, and incense sticks that are placed on their ancestors' shrines or graves.

3. Having a Reunion Dinner with Family

Reunion Dinner

Reunion Dinner

Gathering with family and having a big reunion dinner (年夜饭 nián yè fàn) is a must-do on Chinese New Year’s Eve. The reunion dinner has resulted in the world's largest migration of people every year.

Despite the many regional differences in culture and customs, most of China has similar beliefs concerning the New Year's meal.

New Year's foods represent what should come in the next year: chicken, fish, dumplings, rice cakes, and fruits - all represent wealth and prosperity.

Nian Gao (rice cake) in particular can represent a higher position or status. Sweet Rice Balls are eaten for family togetherness, and noodles are eaten for longevity.

Read Chinese New Year Food to know more about propitious dishes.

4. Watching CCTV New Year Gala

The CCTV New Year's Gala (春晚 chūn wǎn) is an entertainment show with a combination of modern media and folk customs. It is a must-see TV show on Chinese New Year's eve for every Chinese family.

5. Giving Red Envelopes

People will give red envelopes (红包 hóng bāo), full of lucky money to their children, wishing them health, growth, and happiness in the coming year.

6. Staying Up Late

Staying up late or all night on Chinese New Year's Eve is called "守岁 (shǒu suì)" in Chinese. After the grand reunion dinner, all family members will sit together, chatting, playing cards or mahjong, and watch the Spring Festival gala to welcome the arrival of the new year.

Some people will go to squares or even mountain-top temples to hear bells ringing at the end of the old year or the beginning of the new year.

Chinese New Year's Day (Jan. 22, 2023): Most Important Day

The first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year is the most important day of the whole year. To have a happy and prosperous new year, Chinese people will do many celebrations on this day.

The most popular celebrations are setting off firecrackers, putting on new clothes, greeting each other, and enjoying the lion and dragon dance.

1. Setting Off Firecrackers and Fireworks

Chinese people believe that fire and loudness can dispel bad luck, and scare away evil spirits.

On the morning of the first day of the lunar new year, people will set off firecrackers once they open the door in the early morning of New Year's Day. The earlier, the better.

Setting off fireworks is to bring good luck and fortune into the family, it is called "开财门" kāi cái mén (open the door of fortune).

Read more interesting facts about Chinese New Year Fireworks.

2. Putting on New Clothes

People will put on new clothes on New year's day. Mostly, the color for the new clothes is red as red is thought to be the luckiest color in Chinese culture. Wearing red clothes is believed to bring good fortune.

Read Chinese New Year Clothes to know more clothes styles for the new year.

3. Greeting Each Other Happy New Year

Each word you say on new year's day matters, so the most important words to say to each other are Happy New Year. The most common greetings are 新年好 xīn nián hǎo (Happy Chinese New Year) and 恭喜发财 gōng xǐ fā cái (wishing you happiness and prosperity.)

Read Chinese New Year Greetings to learn more lucky sayings for the lunar year.

In ancient times, the most important thing on this day was to "拜年 bài nián" (to wish a happy New Year) – people paid visits to the older generations.

But now, young people prefer to hang out shopping while the elders usually stay at home and gossip with their neighbors.

4. Enjoying Lion Dance and Dragon Dance Performance

The lion and dragon symbolize power in Chinese culture. People believe that performing the lion dance and dragon dance can scare away evil spirits and bring good fortune.

Day 2 (Jan. 23, 2023): Welcoming Sons-in-Law

Welcoming Sons-in-Law

The second day of the lunar new year is the day for welcoming sons-in-law or visiting the wife's family, it is called "迎婿日 yíng xù rì" in Chinese.

On this day, married daughters visit their parents' homes with their husbands.

Specific traditions vary from place to place in China, but usually, they bring gifts and red envelopes for the children in their family's home. Daughters and sons-in-law will typically have lunch in their parents' homes.

Read Chinese New Year Gifts to learn more about new year gift ideas.

Day 3 (Jan. 24, 2023): Staying at Home

In old days, the third day of Chinese New Year was considered an ominous day, so people usually didn't go out. There were many traditional taboos, such as cleaning the house, making a fire, having arguments, drawing water, visiting others, and so on.

With the progress of time, however, fewer and fewer people believe in such superstitions. More and more people just take this day as a normal holiday to have fun with their families.

Learn more traditional taboos on the new year on Chinese New Year Superstitions.

Day 4 (Jan. 25, 2023): Welcoming the Kitchen Gods

The fourth day, on the other hand, is considered an auspicious day: a day to welcome the Kitchen God as he returns from heaven to earth.

Families burn incense and light candles to welcome the gods. Families also prepare fruits, alcohol, fish, chicken, and pork for their meals on this day.

Day 5 (Jan. 26, 2023): Welcoming the God of Wealth

The fifth day of the lunar new year is called "破五 pò wǔ" (break five) in Chinese. The taboos and activities forbidden on Chinese New Year can be performed on this day. 

Chinese people will welcome the God of Wealth to their houses on the 5th day.

People will celebrate with a large banquet. They will also keep their doors or windows open as a welcoming gesture towards the Wealth God, setting firecrackers in an attempt to attract the attention of God, thus ensuring his favor and good fortune for themselves and their families year ahead.

Day 6 (Jan. 27, 2023): Driving Away the Ghost of Poverty

On the sixth day of the lunar new year, people usually throw away their ragged clothes, and rubbish, and clean their homes, hoping to drive the ghost of poverty away and welcome a prosperous and successful new year.

People will set off firecrackers and reopen the market on this day, so the 6th day is called "启市日 qǐ shì rì" in Chinese.

Day 7 (Jan. 28, 2023): Eating Qibao Porridge

According to legend, the mother goddess Nǚwa created human beings on the seventh day, so the seventh day of the Chinese New Year is commonly referred to as "人日 rén rì", the day human beings were created.

People in some regions eat Qibao porridge (a thick soup with seven kinds of vegetables) on this day to ward off misfortune and disease.

In some rural places, people make torches with straws, light them and send them out of the village, to express their wish that there will no fire-related disasters in the year ahead.

Day 8 (Jan. 29, 2023): Setting Animals Free and Returning to Work

The eighth day of the Chinese New Year is believed to be the birthday of millet, an important crop in ancient China. According to folk proverbs, if the weather on this day is bright and clear, then the year will bring forth a good harvest; otherwise, the year will suffer a poor harvest.

Some people will set animals such as fish and birds free to show respect for nature.

After a 7-day celebration for the Chinese New Year, most people return to work on the eighth day. Bosses will give staff red envelopes (hongbao in Mandarin or lai see in Cantonese), which means that the team can make profits all year.

Day 9 (Jan. 30, 2023): Celebrating the Birthday of the Jade Emperor

taboos on the ninth day

The ninth day is the birthday of the Jade Emperor (the Supreme Deity of Taoism). According to Taoist legend, all the deities of heaven and earth celebrate this day, and there are grand ceremonies in Taoist temples.

Activities include:

Day 10 (Jan. 31, 2023): Celebrating the Birthday of the God of Stone

The tenth day is the birthday of the god of stone. On this day, it is forbidden to move any stone, including stone rollers, stone mills, and stone mortars.

In addition, it is also forbidden to cut into mountain rocks or to build a house with rocks, or bad things will happen to their crops. On this day, families burn incense and candles to honor stone and offer pancakes to the god of stone.

Day 11 (Feb. 1, 2023): Fathers-in-Law Entertaining Sons-in-Law

The eleventh day is for fathers-in-law to entertain their sons-in-law. There is a lot of food left over from celebrating the birthday of the Jade Emperor, so the leftover food is eaten on this day.

People in some regions hold the dragon dance on this day, and the dance is always accompanied by firecrackers.

Day 12-14 (Feb. 2-4, 2023): Preparing for the Lantern Festival

Families buy lanterns and build a lantern shack to prepare for the Lantern Festival.

Day 15 (Feb. 5, 2023): Lantern Festival

The 15th day of the Chinese New year is the Lantern Festival (元宵节 yuán xiāo jié). It traditionally marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebration.

The popular activities on this day are lighting up lanterns, guessing lantern riddles, eating yuan xiao (a kind of rice ball), and enjoying time with families or lovers.

Lantern Festival Traditions
Lantern Festival Traditions

In a tradition dating back to the Song dynasty, people will write poem riddles on lanterns, and those who can solve them will sometimes receive prizes from the owners of the lanterns.

Lantern Festival is not only a family reunion time but also a special time when unmarried young men and women could meet. People eat rice balls with fillings to celebrate and usher in a prosperous and lucky new year.

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