Chinese New Year is celebrated on the first day of the lunar calendar. In the solar calendar, Chinese New Year falls in January or February. The festivity honors the gods of the household and the family ancestors. It is a time for reunion and thanksgiving. It is also a time to congratulate each other on having passed through another year, an occasion to finish out the old and welcome in the new.
On New Year’s Eve, the spirits of the ancestors together with the living, rejoice in a communal banquet symbolizing family unity. Led by the head of the household, offerings are made to departed relatives who are remembered with great respect for laying the foundations of the family fortune. Vast amount of food are prepared signifying abundance and wealth for the year to come.
Appearance and attitude during New Year’s set the tone for the rest of the year. No bad or unlucky words are uttered. References to the past year are avoided as everything should be turned toward a new beginning. The entire house is cleaned before New Year’s Day so that good fortune is not swept out on the day itself. Children and unmarried adults are given ang pows; red envelopes with crisp bills.
In Malaysia and Singapore, restaurants serve yee sang or raw fish salad to raise good luck for the New Year. In a tradition known as loh hei, families and friends around the dining table toss the shredded ingredients into the air with chopsticks, while chanting auspicious wishes out loud. The higher you toss, the greater your fortunes.