Chinese New Year 2018 Traditions and Gifts

February 14, 2018

Chinese woman staring at Chinese lanterns

 Chinese New Year 2018 Traditions and Gifts

Woof! The year of the dog returns in 2018 with Chinese New Year ruled by the loyal canine. Because this year is represented by an Earth dog, both family and business relationships will flourish this year. Chinese New Year 2018 is also a time to end bad habits such as smoking and drinking.

Chinese New Year Animals

Chinese lanterns red and gold color

In general, whether a year will be lucky for you depends on your Chinese New Year sign. Each Chinese New Year is ruled by a different zodiac animal and you are assigned one by your birth year. chinese zodiacThose who believe in the Chinese Zodiac think that the year you are born is much more important than your actual birthday and that it shapes not only your personality but also your future.

If you’re wondering if your assigned Chinese New Year animal fits you, you can take this quiz to find out your true Chinese New Year zodiac sign. Then, Keep reading to learn about Chinese New Year Traditions and the best Chines gifts. 


Chinese New Year Beginnings 

Chinese lanterns red and gold color

Just like every other Spring Festival year, Chinese New Year is ruled by tradition, one of the biggest being gift giving. You don’t have to have Chinese ancestors to take part in 15 days of Chinese New Year (from February 16th-21st this year.) The dates change year to year because Chinese New Year revolves around a moon based (lunar calendar.)  

Although we don’t know exactly when celebrating Chinese New Year began, celebration activities date back to at least 2300 B.C. As dynasties changed, new traditions and festivities were added, eventually bringing us to a holiday celebrated by millions globally.

Chinese New Year Legends

Legend has it that the Spring Festival began after a horrible creature name Nian began to invade and destroy a village on the first day of each year. Nian would eat the villagers’ grain, livestock, and even steal their children. The people of the town were afraid and boarded themselves inside their homes, always living in fear of Nian.

A wise old man (a god) visited the village and explained that beast was scared of several things: the color red, loud noises, and odd looking creatures. That year, the villagers began to hang red decorations everywhere, beat their drums loudly, and play music/light lanterns. The children were also given strange looking masks to frighten Nian. The villagers were able to Guo Nian (or overcome Nian). Guo Nian is the Chinese word for New Year.

The animal zodiac signs of Chinese New Year come from an ancient myth as well. There are many different versions of the story, but generally it goes like this: On his birthday, the Jade Emperor called a race between all of the animals in the land.

The race would create a way for the people to measure time, because the first 12 animals to cross the finish line would represent one month of the year. To be one of the twelve, the animals had to cross a rapidly moving river and reach the shore. I won’t go into all of the details, but if you want to know how the rat got to the shore first even though he was the worst swimmer, read the full story here.

Chinese New Year Traditions

Whether you believe in the story of Nian or the Emperor’s race or not, it’s fun to celebrate some of the traditions that followed his defeat. Chinese family sitting around chinese new year table feastDifferent parts of China have various Chinese New Year traditions, but generally, the festivities start with a New Year’s Eve dinner. Known as a reunion dinner, this feast is considered the most important gathering of the year.



During this time, family comes from far and wide to eat dumplings, chicken, fish, and pork together.  Dumplings are considered one of the most important Chinese New Year foods because they resemble a form of ancient money. Some families even wrap symbols of good fortune inside the dumplings to bring wealth.


But before the dinner gets underway, there are lots of preparations to be made. Cleaning takes place to drive the bad luck or the old things away from the house and prepare for a new start. Chinese New Year scrolls with poetry on them (couplets) are pasted on doors to draw in power and wealth. Greeting cards are also prepared to pass Chinese New Year blessings on to family and friends. Some of the greetings put in Chinese New Year 2018 cards might include: Wan Shi Ru Yi (everything follows your will) and Sui Sui Ping An (harmony and safety year round)

Happy new year sign

Chinese New Year Gift Giving

Once the festival is underway, adults and children stay home from work/school, they stay up all night popping fireworks, and hand out red envelopes with money inside. These red packets serve as Chinese New Year gifts for young people and are supposed to bless the person receiving good health and long life.

After Chinese New Year comes to an end, the festivities continue on for a bit. Family and friends continue to visit one another, popping up with gifts in hand. Though gift giving isn’t mandatory, it is considered rude to arrive at someone’s home without some small Chinese New Year gift in tow. What you bring is up to you, but some of the most popular offerings are red envelopes, fruit, and tea. CNY red envelope

Tea is an especially appreciated gift because it can be used in another Chinese New Year ritual: the presentation of tea. This usually occurs on the first day of Chinese New Year, early in the morning. Dressed to impress, the elders of the family sit in the living room and are offered tea by the younger generation.

There are lots of rituals that go along with the presentation (like the way the handle should be held and how it should be presented), but regardless, this Chinese New Year tradition is another way that celebrating families can wish each other prosperity.

Whether you gift tea during Chinese Year 2018 or some other trinket, just make sure that you arrive with a paired gift and not just one. Chinese people believe that good things should be in pairs and an oddly numbered Chinese New gifts are considered bad luck.

I hope that this Chinese New Year 2018 blog post helped you gain a little more insight when it comes to Chinese New Year traditions and gift giving.

Gǒunián jíxiáng! (Good luck for this Dog Year)



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