As a Muslim, Chinese New Year is pretty much a mystery to me. It’s not just me either, I know for sure a ton of people from other religions also have a ton of Chinese New Year misconceptions!
Most of the basics I have no issues with but there are still things that I’m clueless about.
That’s why this article exists! Hopefully, it’ll serve to educate some folks about things that they might have thought wrongly about the Chinese New Year!
So here we go!
Chinese New Year is a religious holiday.
This one is especially tricky! After all, the closest analogue for a Muslim is Hari Raya and both of them are due to religious beliefs. Stands to reason that I’d think that the Chinese New Year is a religious one too!
Nope, it isn’t!
Chinese New Year is in fact a product of Chinese culture and centuries of tradition! Yes, it incorporates elements from religions like Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism but its roots are definitely not tied to a single religion.
So while it’s true that prayers and other religious events take place on the day, they’re not the source of the celebration itself.
Only Chinese People Celebrate Chinese New Year.
In hindsight, this one seems really straightforward. I mean, it’s right there in the name; Chinese New Year! Obviously, this is the Chinese way of celebrating the arrival of their new year! Duh!
Nope…also a misconception.
Remember, Chinese New Year is also called the Lunar New Year. That’s not just for fun either. The Lunar New Year is something all cultures that use the lunisolar calendar celebrate.
Counterparts to the Chinese New Year exist in other Asian countries too. Vietnamese call it Tết Nguyên Đán (Feast of the First Morning of the First Day). Koreans know have their own version too, which is called Seollal.
Chinese New Year Lasts For A Month.
It’s easy to see where this misconception would come from, especially if you’re a Muslim. The Hungry Ghost Festival lasts a month, Hari Raya lasts a month…so it’s not out of place to think that like some other festivals, the Chinese New Year is a monthly affair too!
The celebration only lasts for a little more than 2 weeks, or 15 days if you’re picky! They go on for that length because that’s how long it takes for a new full moon to appear.
At the end of the celebrations, the Lantern Festival is held, to celebrate the night of the first full moon.
Ang Pows (Red Packets) Have Tons of Cash in Them.
Ever since Primary School, everything I’ve heard from my Chinese friends (during the Chinese New Year period) were about how they got a boatload of money from the ang pows they got from their parents and grandparents. Hundreds of dollars at times!
Holy crap, that’s a ton of money! I wish Hari Raya packets gave as much!
Too bad it’s another misconception.
Yes, the Chinese do put large amounts of cash in ang pows…but only for close family. Parents and grandparents to kids close. Every other ang pow isn’t as loaded! Right now, it seems like $6 is the auspicious number most settle on for giving away regular ang pows. Unless you’re loaded, most Chinese just give a token amount to the red packets they hand to people not in their immediate family.
In this sense, ang pows are similar to green packets.
Dammit, I was just about to try to get adopted by a Chinese family.
Yusheng is part of a centuries old tradition.
Of all the things associated with the Chinese New Year, the Reunion Dinner and the Yusheng dish in particular is a particularly memorable one. A group of people mixing up a dish and then shouting jubilantly as they toss the food up into the air. Sounds like something thought up during the days of the Qin Dynasty right?
Yusheng as we know it only came about recently! How recent? Depending who you ask, it’s either the 1940s or 1960s!
Yep, Yusheng’s origins are actually disputed as there are two claims to its creation. One claim has it created in 1940s by a restaurant in Malaysia, another has its origin in the 1960s, by the hands of 4 famous chefs in Singapore.
Either way, Yusheng didn’t originate in China and it seems to be a cultural Chinese New Year tradition that’s unique to us South East Asians. Surprising, huh?
So there you have it! 5 misconceptions you might’ve had regarding Chinese New Year! Do you have any misconceptions that aren’t on the list?