Chinese New Year Activities – Day by Day Schedule

By: Modern Asian Family
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Chinese New Year Activities - Day by Day Schedule

As a kid, celebrating Chinese New Year was so easy, because I was always just told what to do and all I had to do was 聽媽媽的話 (ting mama de hua – Jay Chou reference. iykyk).

Welp, now I’m the adult and I want to finally understand the meaning behind each day of the preparation leading up to Chinese New Year, as well as get to know the Chinese New Year Activities during the 15 days of celebration.

There is a lot going on, and as a Chinese American, I am not going to enforce each day and all activities on my family. However, it’s still nice to understand the meaning behind each day and I truly appreciate the Chinese culture.

I love that everything has a reason for being. It makes me think about my ancestors and how important this cultural celebration must have been to them, before modern age, technology, and distance from the motherland shifted our priorities from culture and traditions to more superficial and self-centered priorities.

Hopefully, by trying to follow traditions where possible and enveloping my kids in as many Chinese New Year activities as possible, the next generation will understand the importance of keeping these traditions alive.

Key Dates of Chinese New Year Activities

Solar Date (2024)Lunar DateDescriptionPurpose/Meaning
Jan 188th day of the 12th lunar monthLaba FestivalSpring Festival countdown preparations begin
Feb 223rd day of 12th lunar monthWorshipping the Kitchen GodProvide offerings to the Kitchen God so he gives a good report to the Jade Emperor
Feb 324th day of 12th lunar monthHouse CleaningClean the whole house to drive bad juju away
Feb 425th day of 12th lunar monthMake Bean CurdMake an eat bean curd to show the Jade Emperor you lead a simple life
Feb 526th day of 12th lunar monthBuy and Eat MeatIn ancient China, this was the one day most people could afford to eat pork
Feb 627th day of 12th lunar monthShoppingBuy new clothes, fireworks, Chinese New Year decorations, toys, etc.
Feb 728th day of 12th lunar monthMake Steamed BreadBack in the day, people needed time to prepare food before the new year. Luckily, now can purchase the foods to save time. Can take this time to get a haircut before the new year!
Feb 829th day of 12th lunar monthWorship AncestorsVisit ancestors at their tombs and pay respects
Feb 930th day of 12th lunar monthNew Year’s Eve
(除夕 chúxì)
Family reunion dinner (a very big deal)
Feb 101st day of the 1st month
初一 (chūyī)
New Year’s Day
初一 (chūyī)
Red envelopes and sharing auspicious blessings
Feb 111st month, 2nd day
初二 (chū’èr)
In-Law’s Day
(迎婿日 yíngxùrì, or
開年 kāinián)
Married daughters visit birth parents and relatives, because in ancient China a wife always left home to live with her husband
Feb 121st month, 3rd day
初三 (chūsān)
Day of the Rat
(鼠日 shǔrì)
Common to stay at home and rest with family, play games. Sleep early to not disturb the wedding of rats
Feb 131st month, 4th day
初四 (chūsì)
Day of the Sheep
(羊日 yángrì)
Pray to the God of Wealth with offerings. Do not slaughter any sheep on this day!
Feb 141st month, 5th day
初五 (chūwǔ)
Break Five
(破五 pòwǔ)
Taboos from the previous days can be broken. Markets and stores can resume operations
Feb 151st month, 6th day
初六 (chūliù)
Day of the Horse
(馬日 mǎrì)
Horses were created o the 6th day. This is an acceptable day to start working again
Feb 161st month, 7th day
初七 (chūqī)
Day of Mankind
(人日 rénrì)
Humans are believed to have been created on the 7th day by Nüwa, the mother goddess.
Feb 171st month, 8th day
初八 (chūbā)
Day of the Millet
(谷日節 gǔrìjié)
Good weather on this day signifies a fruitful harvest to come
Feb 181st month, 9th day
初九 (chūjiǔ)
Providence Health
(天公生 tiāngōngshēng)
Celebrate the Jade Emperor’s birthday
Feb 191st month, 10th day
初十 (chūshí)
Stone Festival
(石頭節 shítoujié)
Ten (十 / shí) has the same pronunciation/sound as rock (石). This day celebrates the birthday of the stones
Feb 201st month, 11th day
初十一 (chūshíyī)
Son-in-Law Day
(子婿日 zǐxùrì)
Families invite daughter and son-in-law over to enjoy a meal
Feb 21-231st month, 12th – 14th day
初十二 – 初十四 (chūshí’èr – chūshísì)
Lantern Festival PreparationsPrepare for the lantern festival: buy groceries, cook, make lanterns, etc.
Feb 241st month, 15th day
初十五 (chūshíwǔ)
Lantern Festival (元宵節 yuánxiāojié)The Lantern Festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. For this day, we celebrate by enjoying lanterns, guessing lantern riddles, and eating dumplings.

Chinese New Year Preparations

As the Chinese New Year approaches, the air fills with anticipation and the scent of tradition, starting with the Laba Festival, typically celebrated on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month. This ancient festival, marking the beginning of Chinese New Year preparations, involves making and sharing Laba porridge, a hearty mix of grains and legumes, symbolizing a prayer for harvest and prosperity.

The journey towards the New Year continues with the worship of the Kitchen God, a revered deity believed to report the household’s affairs to the Jade Emperor. Families offer sweet treats to the Kitchen God, hoping to sweeten his words and secure a year of good fortune.

As the New Year draws closer, homes are swept clean in a ritual cleansing that sweeps away ill-fortune and makes way for incoming luck—a practice steeped in the belief that cleanliness invites the auspices of good health and prosperity.

The shopping that follows is a flurry of activity, with markets bustling as families stock up on decorations, gifts, and ingredients for the feast to come. Red lanterns, couplets, and paper cuttings adorn homes, symbolizing happiness, wealth, and longevity.

Chinese New Year’s Eve

The climax of these preparations is the reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve, a gastronomic gathering that is the heart of the celebration. Tables overflow with dishes rich in symbolism—fish for abundance, dumplings for wealth, and sweet rice balls for family togetherness. This meal is more than just a feast; it’s a testament to the enduring bonds of family and the shared hope for a year filled with blessings.

Chinese New Year Celebrations

Following the meticulous preparations, the Chinese New Year celebrations start in earnest with the arrival of New Year’s Day, marked by the crackling of fireworks and the warmth of family greetings, symbolizing a joyous welcome to the gods of wealth and prosperity.

The second day, known as “In-Law’s Day,” is when married women visit their birth parents, reflecting the deep-rooted values of family unity and respect. The Day of the Sheep on the fourth day brings a quieter, more reflective time, with many choosing to stay home, honoring the peace-loving nature of the sheep and allowing for a day of rest amidst the bustling festivities.

The seventh day, known as the Day of Mankind, celebrates the creation of humans and is often marked by the consumption of seven-vegetable soup, each ingredient a harbinger of good luck and health.

The festivities reach a celestial peak on the ninth day with the birthday of the Jade Emperor, the supreme deity of Taoism. This night is filled with incense, offerings, and prayers, as families seek divine blessings and protection.

As the celebrations progress, anticipation builds for the Lantern Festival, which marks the final day of the New Year festivities. Preparations begin with crafting lanterns and planning for the night’s parade, a spectacle of light and color. Communities come alive with dragon dances, riddle contests, and the eating of tangyuan, sweet rice balls symbolizing family togetherness and the full circle of life.

The Lantern Festival not only illuminates the night sky, but also the hearts of those participating, encapsulating the essence of hope, renewal, and the enduring spirit of community that defines the Chinese New Year celebrations. From the first day’s fresh beginnings to the Lantern Festival’s luminous conclusion, each day is a chapter in a story of tradition, family, and the relentless pursuit of happiness and prosperity.

Wrapping it Up

There you have it! Chinese New Year is a vibrant testament to the enduring strength of tradition, family bonds, and the universal aspiration for prosperity and happiness.

In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, many of the Chinese New Year practices, deeply entwined with the ancient traditions and agricultural roots of China, have transformed into symbolic gestures.

Nonetheless, as we engage in the myriad of festivities that define this vibrant celebration, it’s a powerful reflection on the enduring legacy of our ancestors, who meticulously aligned their lives with the cycles of the moon and the earth.

These festivities are vibrant threads in the fabric of Chinese culture. As we revel in the nearly month-long preparation and celebration of Chinese New Year, let us take pride in this rich cultural legacy, cherishing the meaningful and symbolic connections to our past, and carrying forward the spirit of unity, prosperity, and hope into the future.

Which Chinese New Year activities do you and your family participate in? How do you make this holiday your own? Let us know in the comments!

The editorial team at Modern Asian Family consists of parents who are passionate about sharing their Asian culture and heritage with their children in today's dynamic Western and Western-influenced societies. We believe it takes a village to raise kids in today’s complex world. By crowdsourcing wisdom, we not only educate our own families but lift up fellow parents along the way.

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