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Chinese New Year photos and stories

Updated on November 24, 2014

Chinese New Year of the Horse!

Chinese New Year is upon us, and we are slithering from the Year of the Snake into the Year of the Horse!

The new year festivities begin at least a week ahead of time, with lots of traveling to offer New Years wishes ahead of time. The point of the New Year holiday is to be home with family. If you are not home, you would feel very sad, like not being home at Christmas only worse.

Celebration rises to a height on New Year's Eve beginning in the morning with fireworks, which continue on and off through the day, and rise to quite a crescendo again at dinner time when the whole family has gathered. Things quiet down a little during dinner and afterwards when families sit around the television to watch one of the many New Year's Eve programs. If you liked the Olympics Opening Ceremony, you will like these too. They can be viewed live on the computer, and watched later as well.

And at Midnight? The whole world explodes, with crackers of all sorts, huge high flyers, and magnificent illuminated "flowers." But watch out! As you will see, your balcony is not a safe place at midnight, even in big cities where the firecracker scene is not so crazy as the country. But no matter where you are, it will not be silent...

Have a good look at Chinese New Year customs - you might want to try some!

Chinese New Year of the Horse - This one wishes you success in the Year of the Horse!

Happy New Year in Chinese

What should I eat for New Year's?

There's lots of great stuff here in Beijing!

There are many customary things people eat in China when it is the New Year. But on New Year's Eve, you will find families all over the northern area of China preparing Jiaozi (pronounced G -ow - dzuh). They are a lot like ravioli, and perhaps you may have had the chance to eat them in a Chinese restaurant? That is what our family will eat, along with a food that is eaten in both North and South, which is Spring Rolls. This is the reason they are called "Spring" rolls - they are made to welcome the spring! The celebration here is not welcoming in a new calendar year so much as it is welcoming in the official beginning of Spring.

Every place has its own special food, which is not eaten in other parts of the country. In the Nanjing area, not too far from Shanghai, we were often offered a special dish of either eight or eighteen types of vegetables. Why 8 or 18? Because in Chinese, the pronunciation of the word "8" sounds a lot like the word for "getting rich." And 18 sounds like the words for "will get rich!" Everyone is making a wish that they will have good luck and plenty of money and things to eat in the New Year.

Before we eat our dumplings, we always have some candied "haws" on a stick. They are like crab apples, but come from the hawthorn tree. This year, we will be having one of our own creations... some dragon biscuits, which are not a Chinese custom! See how to make them at:the Dragon Biscuits instructions page.

In the north you can't have New Year without Dumplings! - It's like cookies at Christmas...

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Dumplings cooking in the pan.  Yum!!!  We like to boil them until the water is gone and then fry them until the bottom is crispy.  SO GOOD!The finished jiaozi - there are many ways to fill them.  Pork and Chinese cabbage is the usual filling. I like creative ones - carrot and raisins!Spring rolls waiting for frying...  We wrap them ourselves.  They aren't hard really...
Dumplings cooking in the pan.  Yum!!!  We like to boil them until the water is gone and then fry them until the bottom is crispy.  SO GOOD!
Dumplings cooking in the pan. Yum!!! We like to boil them until the water is gone and then fry them until the bottom is crispy. SO GOOD!
The finished jiaozi - there are many ways to fill them.  Pork and Chinese cabbage is the usual filling. I like creative ones - carrot and raisins!
The finished jiaozi - there are many ways to fill them. Pork and Chinese cabbage is the usual filling. I like creative ones - carrot and raisins!
Spring rolls waiting for frying...  We wrap them ourselves.  They aren't hard really...
Spring rolls waiting for frying... We wrap them ourselves. They aren't hard really...
Chinese New Year dragon
Chinese New Year dragon

Temple Fairs are a lot of fun for everyone

Everywhere is crowded during the New Year holiday

These photos are mostly from the Dong Yue Temple in Beijing, where they have an annual Temple Fair that is wonderfully traditional. If you are ever in Beijing for the New Year this is the place to see. The feel is remotely like a country fair in the US.

Temple Fair photos - Where to go for old fashioned fun

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Temples are temples - people come here to light incense to remember their family members who are not with them any more.  This is one activity that happens at both Buddhist and Daoist Temples during New Year's.Skewered barbeque is one of the delicious fair foods you can eat - they have excellent and tasty meat of all kinds, cooked right in front of your eyes.  The smell is mouth watering.Troupes of drummers and dancers perform at the temple gates to lure people in and create a very noisy and festive atmosphere.There are even old fashioned "peep shows" which work by dropping down screens to show the story as the man in charge calls out the story in a loud voice so everyone can hear.  This is the origin of the "movies!"Tea - Soup.  It is both tea and soup - a mix of starch powder and ground nuts and fruits.  It makes a very soothing and warming drink for the freezing weather of the fairs.The tea soup seller has a dragon pot which he keeps refilling.  This way you can get the water for your soup poured into your bowl by the dragon!Performances in front of the temple are often so popular that you can't get through the thick crowd of people to see the actors in action.  But you can chat with them as they wait for their turn, and these ladies loved to chat, and had a great sense Some of the crafts that are for sale in the courtyards between the temple buildings are centuries old, like this one.  The artisans make painted packed clay figurines for sale for each of the different years of the Chinese zodiac.  The biggest ones a
Temples are temples - people come here to light incense to remember their family members who are not with them any more.  This is one activity that happens at both Buddhist and Daoist Temples during New Year's.
Temples are temples - people come here to light incense to remember their family members who are not with them any more. This is one activity that happens at both Buddhist and Daoist Temples during New Year's.
Skewered barbeque is one of the delicious fair foods you can eat - they have excellent and tasty meat of all kinds, cooked right in front of your eyes.  The smell is mouth watering.
Skewered barbeque is one of the delicious fair foods you can eat - they have excellent and tasty meat of all kinds, cooked right in front of your eyes. The smell is mouth watering.
Troupes of drummers and dancers perform at the temple gates to lure people in and create a very noisy and festive atmosphere.
Troupes of drummers and dancers perform at the temple gates to lure people in and create a very noisy and festive atmosphere.
There are even old fashioned "peep shows" which work by dropping down screens to show the story as the man in charge calls out the story in a loud voice so everyone can hear.  This is the origin of the "movies!"
There are even old fashioned "peep shows" which work by dropping down screens to show the story as the man in charge calls out the story in a loud voice so everyone can hear. This is the origin of the "movies!"
Tea - Soup.  It is both tea and soup - a mix of starch powder and ground nuts and fruits.  It makes a very soothing and warming drink for the freezing weather of the fairs.
Tea - Soup. It is both tea and soup - a mix of starch powder and ground nuts and fruits. It makes a very soothing and warming drink for the freezing weather of the fairs.
The tea soup seller has a dragon pot which he keeps refilling.  This way you can get the water for your soup poured into your bowl by the dragon!
The tea soup seller has a dragon pot which he keeps refilling. This way you can get the water for your soup poured into your bowl by the dragon!
Performances in front of the temple are often so popular that you can't get through the thick crowd of people to see the actors in action.  But you can chat with them as they wait for their turn, and these ladies loved to chat, and had a great sense
Performances in front of the temple are often so popular that you can't get through the thick crowd of people to see the actors in action. But you can chat with them as they wait for their turn, and these ladies loved to chat, and had a great sense
Some of the crafts that are for sale in the courtyards between the temple buildings are centuries old, like this one.  The artisans make painted packed clay figurines for sale for each of the different years of the Chinese zodiac.  The biggest ones a
Some of the crafts that are for sale in the courtyards between the temple buildings are centuries old, like this one. The artisans make painted packed clay figurines for sale for each of the different years of the Chinese zodiac. The biggest ones a
Chinese New Year Fireworks
Chinese New Year Fireworks

No matter what year it is, you will always see these things

Like holly and ivy, twinkle lights and christmas trees

There are many sights you will see every year, no matter which animal year it happens to be. The first sight of the New Year is fireworks. A LOT OF THEM!

Fireworks announce the arrival of Spring!

But I also ended up almost getting blown up! Our balcony was right at the level where the fireworks exploded, and when someone set some off right below our balcony, well... it was exciting! See what it is like from the middle of the action near Shanghai's Century Park. Don't worry. It was okay in the end - just exciting in the middle!

The sights of Chinese New Year - If the words are in the way of the photo, "x" them out and use the arrows to move along.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Crowds. Everywhere. This is what it looks like during the New Year holiday at the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai.A New Year cutie in a tiger hat and cape.Red string bracelets for everyone born in the year of the dragon. You are supposed to leave it on all year for good luck.Handmade pinwheels are a common New Years toy for children.There are lion dogs everywhere. This is not a dragon - it is one of the symbols you see every New Year for sale as toys, danging in performances, and on posters and signs.Gourds, often with designs painted or burned on. You can buy one for every year, and the gourd represents long life, because it is what characters in stories use to carry the "elixir of long life" and medicines in on their travels.Lanterns are everywhere, and always red. All that red makes it exciting to walk down the street.The Year of the Rabbit is passing on, and the Year of the Dragon will begin soon! Mr Dragon and Mrs. Rabbit go shopping to buy their New Year surprises.
Crowds. Everywhere. This is what it looks like during the New Year holiday at the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai.
Crowds. Everywhere. This is what it looks like during the New Year holiday at the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai.
A New Year cutie in a tiger hat and cape.
A New Year cutie in a tiger hat and cape.
Red string bracelets for everyone born in the year of the dragon. You are supposed to leave it on all year for good luck.
Red string bracelets for everyone born in the year of the dragon. You are supposed to leave it on all year for good luck.
Handmade pinwheels are a common New Years toy for children.
Handmade pinwheels are a common New Years toy for children.
There are lion dogs everywhere. This is not a dragon - it is one of the symbols you see every New Year for sale as toys, danging in performances, and on posters and signs.
There are lion dogs everywhere. This is not a dragon - it is one of the symbols you see every New Year for sale as toys, danging in performances, and on posters and signs.
Gourds, often with designs painted or burned on. You can buy one for every year, and the gourd represents long life, because it is what characters in stories use to carry the "elixir of long life" and medicines in on their travels.
Gourds, often with designs painted or burned on. You can buy one for every year, and the gourd represents long life, because it is what characters in stories use to carry the "elixir of long life" and medicines in on their travels.
Lanterns are everywhere, and always red. All that red makes it exciting to walk down the street.
Lanterns are everywhere, and always red. All that red makes it exciting to walk down the street.
The Year of the Rabbit is passing on, and the Year of the Dragon will begin soon! Mr Dragon and Mrs. Rabbit go shopping to buy their New Year surprises.
The Year of the Rabbit is passing on, and the Year of the Dragon will begin soon! Mr Dragon and Mrs. Rabbit go shopping to buy their New Year surprises.

The Kitchen God reports to heaven and comes back again for the New Year

Chinese families in the countryside often keep the custom of having a Kitchen God print hanging in their kitchen. During the Spring Festival (New Year's holiday), five days before the New Year, they will take the print out and burn it to send the god on his way to Heaven to make his report. But before he goes, they will give him food, often sticky sweets, so he will only say good things about the family in his report, or possibly so that the sweets will actually stick his mouth shut, and he won't be able to say anything at all. The family will buy a new version of the Kitchen God print to paste in their kitchen at a local Temple Fair, and put it up during the first week of the New Year. Want more information? Look for "kitchen god" in hubpages to find more photos.

So do you have any questions or comments? - It's always interesting to hear from you!

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    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
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      Elyn MacInnis 4 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @anonymous: Thanks Tipi. It was quite an experience nearly getting blown up by fireworks. But fortunately I wasn't hurt, and got to enjoy the excitement.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      YOur voice here is full of excitement and I can almost see your smile and twinkling eyes in the fireworks....a first hand experience seems to convey so much more than from someone who has just read about it....I got a kick out of the excitement in the middle....you seem to have a gift for taking all things in stride....may many others enjoy the Chinese New Year through your excellent spirit...have already FB liked and shared with a G+. :)

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I can just imagine what new year is like in China as they love firecrackers. Being in the midst of this must be so much fun.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 4 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @stephen downing: If you come to China for New Year's you will never be disappointed! It's a wonderful time to visit.

    • stephen downing profile image

      stephen downing 4 years ago

      I have always fancied visiting China, see the great wall, and the terracotta warriors. Now the Chinese New Year is another must see.

      Thank you!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      All of this is so beautiful. Thank you for publishing this wonderful tour.

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 5 years ago

      @Elyn MacInnis: Thanks!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @LabKittyDesign: Your astrological year settled according to the day you were born in the lunar calendar. So if you were born in December 2012, you would be a dragon. But when you are born, you count as "1 year old." That is why the Chinese have two ways to decide your age - the Western way, and their own way that adds one year, which is the "year" you spent in utero.

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 5 years ago

      Is it true that your Chinese astrological animal isn't the year you were born, but rather the year you were *conceived* (so: subtract nine months)? Or is someone pulling our leg?

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • JoolsObsidian LM profile image

      JoolsObsidian LM 5 years ago

      Chinese New Year looks like a lot of fun!! Lovely photos!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image
      Author

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @Ladyeaglefeather: Oh yes - But the water dragon is not such a welcome guest if it brings floods. So people don't make too much mention of that this year.

    • tea lady 2 profile image

      Pat 5 years ago from Midwest, USA

      Great photos telling so many stories. Thanks for this wonderful lens. Makes me want to see more....

    • profile image

      Ladyeaglefeather 5 years ago

      Did you know, it the year of the water dragon?

    • profile image

      squeedunk 5 years ago

      Mmmm ... dumplings. Happy Year of The Dragon!

    • SophiaStar LM profile image

      SophiaStar LM 5 years ago

      What wonderful photos and videos of what I can only imagine would be an amazing experience!

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      Very fun lens! Those dumplings look delicious! :)

      Thank you so much for leaving comments on my Backwards Day and Robeez Baby Shoes lenses! That interesting about people walking backwards in China...it is good exercise and works different muscles than walking forward...they are definitely on to something! :) Thanks for visiting!