Ever wondered what\u2019s the story behind your favourite Chinese New Year traditions. We hang red paper lanters and give angpao to children, we toss food in the air and gather our families under one roof. But what\u2019s the purpose behind it all? Well, there\u2019s actually a lot of symbolism behind the celebrations and traditions of Chinese New Year. Behind most of it is the idea of \u2018homophones\u2019, which are a big deal in Chinese culture. Two words that sound like each other are often connected by meaning. That is why the number four is unlucky because it sounds like the word \u2018death\u2019. But alternatively, good words have the power to bring good things when spoken. In Hokkien,\u2018ong\u2019 means both good fortune and pineapple, hence why the fruit is featured prominently in celebratory dishes. You will find this concept a lot in the list below. So without further ado here is the meaning and symbolism behind some of the most common Chinese New Year traditions still practiced today. Chinese New Year Traditions and their Hidden Meanings Cleaning While often seen as bad luck to do on Chinese New Year, cleaning is actually important part of Chinese New Year tradition. As long as it is done before the new year. The word \u2018dust\u2019 in Chinese also means \u2018old\u2019. So by cleaning away the dust, they are also symbolically cleaning away the bad luck from the previous year to make way for new luck to come into the home. But this can also translate to throwing out old, broken or unused belongings too as a sort of ritualistic decluttering. Another thing to note is that cleaning doesn\u2019t just extend to cleaning the house, but also a cleaning of the self. So families make sure to properly wash and shampoo their hair on the new year eve before greeting the next day with a fresh, clean, start. Chinese New Year Decoration Families take decorations pretty seriously on Chinese New Year, paying special attention to the colour red which has long been associated with the element of fire, symbolising vitality, life-force, renewal and hence good fortune. Evil spirits are afraid of the colour red and \u2018red\u2019 also sounds like the word \u2018prosperous\u2019 in Chinese. The apotropaic properties of the colour red is also associated with an ancient Chinese myth about an old man (who was really a celestial being in disguise) who came to help a village deal with a mythical, bloodthirsty beast called Nian who would come once a year to feast on children. The old man discovered that the beast hated the colour red, bright lights and loud noises and so told the villagers of his discovery. This was how the tradition of fireworks and red decorations came about. Now every Chinese New Year families hang red paper poems on doorways, and place red Chinese knots and red paper cuttings on their doors to both ward off evil spirits and draw in good luck. Round, red lanterns are also hung on rafters, fireworks and firecrackers are set off,\u00a0 and lion dances are performed to commemorate the legend of the Nian. Red Envelopes A tradition in Chinese New Year which all children love, angpao or red envelopes are given during this time by adults (particularly couples) to children and unmarried youngsters. According to Chinese culture, angpao were given as a form of blessing, to stave off the effects of aging for the younger members of the family and ward off bad luck for the coming year. The money given should ideally have the even numbers in it (because good things come in pairs) or denominations of the number 8, which in Mandarin sounds like the word \u2018huat\u2019 which means \u2018prosperity\u2019. The tradition of the angpao started from the myth of a monster called Sui which comes out during New Year\u2019s Eve to bring bad luck to children, causing fever and other illnesses. One night an elderly couple accidentally left a red pouch containing eight copper coins inside it under their son\u2019s pillow. When the Sui came it was scared off by the magic of the red pouch and copper coins, and that was how the myth spread and became the practice of giving angpaos to children to this day. Lion Dance Often performed at the launch of new business, lion dances are also hugely popular during Chinese New Year. Thought to be based on the myth of the Nian in some circles, lion dances are performed to both ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune by incorporating loud noises (banging of cymbals) and the colour red. The performance is usually ended with a tradition called cai\u00a0qing meaning \u2018throwing the greens\u2019 which is a homophone for \u2018spread good fortune\u2019. The performers will throw lettuce at the audience to symbolise this bestowal of luck and abundance. Alternatively, a dragon dance can also be performed, although the legends of how this came about is slightly different than the lion dance. According to myth, dragon dances were started as a form of rain dance thought to help appease the dragon gods (which were associated with the element of water) to bring rain (hence, prosperity) during periods of drought. Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner One of the most important celebrations of Chinese New Year is the Reunion Dinner. This is when families come together at the patriarch\u2019s home (usually the grandparent\u2019s home) to feast and trade symbols of good luck (like Mandarin oranges) and angpao. While there are no specific symbolism or meaning behind the Reunion Dinner it is often seen as a familial obligation of renewing the blood ties. Since we spend so much of the year apart, it's important to come together again so we can stay updated on each other's lives. After all who else would you rather share all this abundance and good fortune with other than your closest relatives. But really the whole point of the family dinner is to share in the prosperity of the food. Traditional Food Speaking of food, there can be no Chinese New Year celebration without food. You\u2019re familiar with Yee Sang (or Yusheng) of course, but the tradition of food doesn\u2019t just stop there. Just like with the iconic Prosperity Toss, homophones feature prominently when it comes to food. Oranges, tangerines, and pomelos are often the main stars because they are round and \u2018golden\u2019, which symbolises fullness and wealth. But they are also lucky because of how they sound when spoken. The Chinese word for 'orange' also sounds like 'success'. And the word 'tangerine' contains a character in it that means 'luck'. So you see nothing is accidental in a Chinese New Year menu. Each item is chosen specifically for its meaning and symbol. So if you ever wonder why there\u2019s sashimi in Yee Sang, just know that the word for \u2018raw fish\u2019 also sounds like the word \u2018abundance\u2019 in Chinese. Chinese New Year Taboos Typical actions such as lighting fires and using knives are considered taboo, however using fire to light fireworks are allowed as long as its done with the intention of warding off evil spirits. Using swear words or any negative 'unlucky' words are also frowned upon. Breaking dinnerware is also bad luck as broken things represent incompleteness. Using a broom is related to cleaning superstition mentioned earlier about 'sweeping away' your new year luck. If any of these things happen the family is urged to appease the gods to chase away the bad luck. Cutting hair is also forbidden on the New Year as \u2018hair\u2019 is a homophone of \u2018prosperity\u2019, so cutting your hair in the New Year is like 'cutting away' your prosperity. Other things to avoid during Chinese New Year is: using scissors or knives, needle work, crying (especially crying children), washing clothes, washing hair, taking medicine, taking out garbage, wearing white or black clothes, killing animals, and lending\/borrowing money. Most of these are self-explanatory while others require a bit of symbolic thinking to understand their meaning. Other Chinese New Year Traditions To list down all the Chinese New Year traditions would take up hundreds of pages, so we won\u2019t go through each and every one of them here. But here are some other iconic customs that definitely deserve an honourable mention: \tDoor of Fortune: Families will keep their front door locked on the night of Chinese New Year\u2019s Eve, opening them only at dawn to symbolise the bringing in of good luck on a new day and new year. \tSending the Gods: Families burn effigies of the Kitchen God to honour him on his way back to heaven. Sweet treats are often left on the altar as a bribe so he\u2019ll say only good things about the family when reporting their deeds back to the Jade Emperor. \tHonouring the Dead: Incense and offerings are left on ancestral altars or on graves to ask the dearly departed for their blessing and protection in the new year. \tBlessing of Longevity: Children stay up past midnight on the eve of Chinese New Year to bless their parents with long life. The longer they stay up the more longevity their parents enjoy. Honouring the Old Ways this Chinese New Year These Chinese New Year practices and customs may have originated a long time ago. But they still provide value to the people of today. And while traditions have indeed changed or evolved over time, it\u2019s important to always remember why we observe them. Each tradition carries its own meaning and symbol, and that is what we should embrace. For beneath all the food and fireworks there is the intention of spreading joy, good fortune and luck to all our loved ones. To ensure a safe and prosperous year ahead for everyone. For more insightful stories and fun recipes, stay tuned to Motherhood Story!