Cover Oriental lanterns display at Thean hou temple illuminated for the Chinese New Year festival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Photo: Getty Images)

Some countries celebrate with a loud prosperity toss, some pay respect to the gods—Tater Asia editors share their favourite Chinese New Year traditions

The Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, falls on January 25, 2020 this year. As the most important Chinese festival on the lunar calendar, the occasion is celebrated by Chinese communities across Asia. No matter where you go in Asia, you’ll find yourself surrounded by festive markets, red lanterns and Chinese New Year banners. While most countries in the region share similar customs when it comes to Chinese New Year celebrations, some celebrate the occasion with traditions unique to their culture. As the Year of the Rat draws close, we asked Tatler Asia editors about their favourite ways to usher in the new year.

See also: Chinese New Year 2020: Auspicious Menus To Enjoy In Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Place the red packets under your pillow 

“Just like how children are told to not open their presents until Boxing Day, I was told to put all the red packets I received under my pillow when I was a child, only to open them the next day. It is believed that sleeping on the red packets nurtures wealth and blessings for the new year.”—Pearl Yan, Digital Projects Editor

Take a pomelo-leaf bath 

“Chinese people believe that taking a bath with pomelo leaves on the last day of the lunar year can wash off all the bad luck and bring good fortune. The night before Chinese New Year, my mum would boil pomelo leaves with water, which gives a pleasant citrusy smell and turn the water into a light green colour. It’s definitely one of my favourite ways to start the year afresh.”—PY

Temple visits

“Chinese New Year’s Eve is the busiest time to pay respect to the gods for good fortune. Worshippers would bring food and fruits as offerings and pray with incense in their hands. Wong Tai Sin Temple, Che Kung Temple and Man Mo Temple are popular places to perform these rituals.”—PY

No new shoes

"Most locals would tell you getting a new pair of trousers is an act of bringing wealth into your life (symbolically), as “trousers” sounds exactly like the word “wealth” in Cantonese—but did you know that you’re forbidden to buy shoes during Chinese New Year? “Shoes” is pronounced as “hai” in our language, which sounds similar to the word for “rough” or the sound of a sigh. You definitely don’t want to begin the new year with sighs and stress, right?"—Helen Yu, Digital Editorial Assistant

Don’t wash or cut your hair

"My grandparents used to tell me not to wash or cut hair on the first and second day of Chinese New Year. As the pronunciation of “hair” is similar to the first character in “fat choy” (meaning to become wealthy in Chinese), getting a haircut or washing hair would be considered as washing away your fortune and luck. Of course, not many people are still following the tradition nowadays (given Hong Kong’s notoriously humid climate), but it’s always a good idea to visit the salon earlier and start the new year with a fresh look."—HY

See also: Red And Rat: 7 Luxurious Chinese New Year Decoration For Your Home In 2020


Tossing of Yusheng

“One of my favourite Lunar New Year traditions has to be the tossing of Yusheng, a dish that is served at every Chinese restaurant only during this period. It’s a massive salad of sorts, involving thin strips of raw fish, vegetables and variety of sauces. The fun is in putting this salad together where every ingredient added will have their symbolic meaning called out, followed by zealous tossing with chopsticks—where the higher you toss, the better your luck for the new year will be.”—Daphne Chen-Cordeiro, Digital Content Director

New clothes for all

“For the first day of the Lunar New Year, my family—and I mean everybody—will be decked out in new clothes from head to toe and inside out. Even the handkerchief and socks are brand-new. This represents a fresh start for the year—and the perfect excuse to go shopping. No complaints at all.”—Terence Lim, Editor


Lo Hei

"No Chinese New Year in Malaysia is complete without a rousing tossing of yee sang. The dish translates to mean increase in abundance, and is generally made up of raw seafood (salmon, abalone, jellyfish are among the popular choices), vegetables, five-spice powder, plum sauce and crackers. Its auspicious symbolism aside, I think Malaysians enjoy lo hei (the act of tossing yee sang) because it’s such a joyous way to begin a CNY feast with friends and family who are supposed to utter aloud various auspicious greetings while tossing for a happy and productive year ahead."—Brian Cheong, Digital Editor

See also: Year of The Rat: Hong Kong’s Best Chinese New Year Puddings 2020