New Traditions: Chinese New Year

Gong xi fa cai! 

Learning about and celebrating other cultures weaves threads of unity for our family with others across the globe, and is hugely powerful in its ability to open our hearts to people we may never met.

It is by studying what other people groups deem important, knowing the reasons behind their observance, and how they commemorate their special days/events that we can enjoy each group’s uniqueness and delight in new thoughts, images and ideas as well.  After all…

“Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor.” – William Cowper

With Leo’s arrival into our family, new traditions and celebrations have been woven into the fabric of our family and our celebratory life.  We recently celebrated the extremely important Chinese holiday, Chinese New Year.


My mother in law bought the kids a fantastic book that was extremely helpful and fun to read as we readied for the New Year.


Caroline (ever the list maker and box checker) read each page’s advice on necessary steps to take and made me a list to follow.   She was in the zone, making sure all steps were properly executed, loving the process and feeling tightly connected to Chinese culture.

After getting into their traditional Chinese outfits, Caroline and Leo swept the floors, carrying the dirt out the side door in order to sweep out the bad luck.  (Sweeping dirt out the front door means that a family member will leave.)  (Side note:  we don’t believe in luck but it was neat to learn the whys behind each tradition)

I looked up at one point and saw that Leo was branching out, sweeping and tossing the dirt outside all by himself.

Next on the list was window washing so that good luck can flow in.  This is a chore that all of the kids like to do anyway (anything that sprays is cool in their world), so this one was a hit.

Sword fighting is not a Chinese New Year tradition but the sword was from our trip to China so it was incorporated into the day, as it is almost every day of the week.  #lifewithboys


The day began with a shopping trip to our first ever Asian market.  Upon entering, the kids remarked on the unique smell as it is distinctly different than a typical American market.  Our sense of smell is so powerful in its ability to whisk one back to a previous time/event, and I immediately felt comfortable and yet excited at the newness of this experience all at once. We walked up and down the aisles checking out the unfamiliar packages, the brightly colored candies, and once in the seafood/meat area, the fish with heads and tails still attached (popular at New Year so as to have a good beginning and good ending, and to make wishes come true).  

While shopping, I pointed out that the mandarin oranges still had their stems and leaves attached and Caroline (our walking info source) told us that they’re given out for happiness and wealth, and that when given to a married couple, it means they will have a long marriage.  Later that night she gave Mike and I two that were connected to one another “in honor of your love.”  This girl is big on celebrations and sentiments.


For dinner that night, we had rice, egg rolls, dumplings, and Chinese green onion pancakes; followed by Chinese cookies.  We all worked on our chopstick skills with moderate success – we need much work on this!

After dinner the kids were riled up, and they picked up drums and marched around the house singing “Gong xi fa cai, Gong xi fa cai now!”  while Leo ran up and down the hearth, giggling.


The final celebratory component for us was giving the children lai see; red envelopes with (what is supposed to be) crisp brand-new dollars inside.  (Ours were not brand-new because we didn’t have time to run to the bank before the celebration and we were just happy that we actually had 5 $1 bills in our wallets that night – hurray!- as we never seem to carry cash anymore.)

A close-up of a lai see

This crew loves to celebrate and we are grateful that our family now has a new tradition that they are intimately connected to.


Happy Year of the Rooster!!