All around the world, Kiwanis clubs and other celebrants make preparations for Chinese New Year. Dazzling fireworks, extravagant costumes and colorful dragons will be seen throughout the streets of major cities all over the world. Asia expects more than 3.6 billion trips to be made to areas like Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China during the holiday period, which starts Jan. 31. San Francisco is hosting its extravagant Chinese New Year Parade on Feb. 15, while London and Vancouver are bracing for thousands of visitors for their long-anticipated events.
More than 11,000 Kiwanis members in Taiwan celebrate Chinese New Year each year with festivities and service. The Kiwanis Club of Chinatown in New York participates in Chinatown’s annual parade. Other clubs like the Kiwanis Club of Greater Omaha, organize a gala to usher in the New Year. Clubs in Malaysia, like the Kiwanis Club of Bukit Kiara, organize a celebration for underprivileged children. De Anza Circle K members volunteer each year during the Chinatown YMCA’s annual Chinese New Year Run in San Francisco.
If you can’t attend one of those great festivities, there’s no reason why you can’t celebrate Chinese New Year in your own home. Here are a few ideas to help you welcome friends and family during this widely recognized 15-day holiday.
- Clean, clean, clean. Of course, you would clean your home before welcoming guests. But there’s more meaning when you perform this task before Chinese New Year. Get everyone in the family to join in cleaning as a way to usher in good luck. You’ll “sweep away the bad luck” that came through your home during the previous year. Don’t worry. You get a break from all that cleaning. Don’t sweep or dust during the 15 days of the New Year period. You could sweep away all that good luck.
- Decorate your home. Red also is a symbol of good luck. Place red banners around your doors and red tablecloths on your tables. Add lotus flowers as a finishing touch; they represent rebirth. Many families also decorate with candles. Avoid black, which symbolizes death.
3. Host a trivia activity. Your celebrations will be more meaningful if you and your guests understand the history of this holiday, which is steeped in traditions to bring good luck to a household. Do your research to prepare for an engaging dinnertime conversation. Here are a few trivia ideas: What is another name for Chinese New Year? (Spring Festival). What zodiac animal is being celebrated this year? (2014 is the Year of the Horse). You also could use this as an opportunity to educate your guests about the rich diverse culture of China, its growing economy and the significant progress its made in addressing severe medical issues in its rural areas.
4. Serve a traditional Chinese meal. Your menu should include dishes of rice, Chinese noodles, chicken, fish and pork. Some popular choices include wonton soup, dumplings, pot stickers and nian gao (sticky rice cake).
5. Greet your guests properly. Practice saying Gong Xi Fa Cai, pronounced “gong si fah chai.” It’s a way of wishing your friends and relatives joy and prosperity.
- Pass out monetary gifts to children. Stock up on some red envelopes and new dollar bills. For every child that joins your celebration, make sure you give him a hong bao (red envelope) containing cash in even numbers. Just avoid 4’s—such as $4 or $40. In Chinese culture, four is an unlucky number.
Once you better understand the rituals and importance of this holiday, you’ll want to celebrate Chinese New Year again and again!