The Days of New Year

Part 2. The actual days of Tet. I’m glad that you enjoyed the explanation what we do before the new year. Hopefully I’ll get a lot of pictures while we are celebrating with my family, but I wanted to post this early to give you an idea of what we’ll be doing. It really does go by quickly. I hope that I remember everything.

New Year, New Clothes, New You

A lot of people buy new clothes to wear on new year’s day. I don’t. Well, I do for Chloe, but only because she’s a little budding fashionista and adores new clothes. (**It really is too bad that her mommy knows NOTHING about fashion. Really, she’s lucky that she’s not in black tees and jeans every single day. I used to not buy her any clothes for xmas because when I was younger I hated getting clothes for xmas and didn’t want to do that to my daughter. Well, last year, she got plenty of clothes from other relatives and would go bonkers over them. She was genuinely happy to receive clothes. Every box she opened was: “oh, that is so beautiful!” Needless to say, Santa didn’t make that mistake again and got her plenty of cute things to wear. Sorry, back to the topic. . .) From what my mom says, most people wear new clothes because it’s a holiday and they’re dressing up. While it’s not necessarily tradition I did want to make note of it because most of my family will get all decked out in new clothes, even the men.

Bring it on.

The luck, that is. Here are some of the things done in the name of ensuring a good year. I hope I can remember them all. Don’t shower. Showering is said to wash the luck off of you (because the day before you showered to wash the Bad stuff off). Don’t do housework, especially sweeping. I have heard that you would be sweeping the luck away. A lot of these things are setting the pace for what you want for the rest of the year. Things you want to happen should be done this day, for example, putting money in the bank. My mom gets all giddy with excitement when payday falls on new year. 🙂 Sometimes, she will take money out a day or two before just so she can put the money back in on the day of new year. And, for the same reason, money should not be taken out of the bank the day of new year. My family never works on new year. Everyone takes the day off if they are scheduled to work. It’s so that you’re not having to work too hard all year. Oh, and my favorite part of this – my mom tells me that I shouldn’t cook because she considers that working. Yay!
Tangerine exchange.

I don’t know why this one is done, but if you know why, please tell me. I’ve asked my mom and she didn’t care to elaborate further than to say that I still had to do it. I think she doesn’t know why either. 😉 (**I think it’s funny that at 28 years old my mom can still be upset at my incessant why questions.) What we do is the whole family goes in on boxes of tangerines (this isn’t tradition, this is because it’s cheaper that way). We each take what we need. I’ll need about 26 tangerines. For the 3 days of new year we’re required to visit every family’s house and the tangerine exchange is done when you visit. Example: I go to my mom’s house. I place four tangerine’s on her table with a li xi (red envelope) on top of the tangerine’s – it has to be exactly four and the tangerine’s have to be stacked a certain way. My mom takes two tangerine’s and the li xi. She then places another li xi on the remaining tangerines. I take the two tangerines and the li xi. That exchange is done every single time I go to someone’s house and someone comes to my house. I always have to make a small stack of li xi envelopes set aside specifically for this ritual.

Speaking of li xi.

I think receiving li xi is always everyone’s favorite part. Here’s the whole deal with li xi. Li xi is a red envelope, usually with a cute design on the front, that you put money in to give to people – those people are usually young children. From what I can gather, it’s rude to put coins and only bills are ever put in there. For new year, I usually put $5 for each niece or nephew or cousin, and, of course, my own child. My mom and aunts and uncles do $10 in theirs. For children that I don’t know, but accidentally run into that day at temple or at someone’s house, I have a stack of $2 li xi that I give to them. (The li xi for the tangerine exchange is $1 or $2.) Every family is different about their own rules for giving. Some base it on how old you are. My family uses marriage as the indicator. When I got married I took on the responsibility of giving. I give to all of my unmarried children, cousins, nieces/nephews. When they get married I will stop giving to them. I don’t receive li xi anymore. I have a cousin who is in her 30’s, and because she’s never been married, she doesn’t give li xi – she still gets them. Like I said, this depends on the family. I know families that will base this more on age. As you see family members and friends and friends of friends we always greet each other with new year wishes (there are several phrases that you can say wishing for different things, for example, we usually wish the children a good education – that’s not a direct translation, I don’t know how the direct translation would sound – and for adults you can wish good health or prosperity). After my unmarried family members greet me is when I can give them li xi.


The first thing that I always do on new year day is go to temple. It’s always a big affair and I always see tons of family and friends that I don’t usually see the rest of the year. It’s always a good atmosphere, everyone is so excited. Technically, the day of new year you’re not supposed to eat meat (this is more a religious thing than a cultural thing). Some members of my family follow it, and others don’t. After praying at temple and eating a vegetarian lunch, the family visits start.

House to house to house

My sister lives in a very small town, mostly white. Not much going on to celebrate Chinese New Year. She’s complained about not having the resources to expose her children to new year celebrations. My mom has told her that the most important thing that she can do is visit family. Spend time with your family. We do the same. I’ve said before that we celebrate for three days. Honestly, most of those three days are spent visiting family, and when you have such a large family you really do need three days. So I have three days to make it to everyone’s house to spend time with them, enjoying each other’s company, and completing the tangerine exchange. When family comes to visit you, you should have food and tea to offer. There are a lot of different snacks that we have. There are sugared coconuts, and sugared wintermelon (my personal favorite), peanut brittle, sesame candies, and all sorts of nuts and cakes.

After new year purchases

There is one purchase that is done after the new year is over.   We buy a new purse (or wallet, or pants, depending on where you usually put your money).  It’s to help bring in money during the year.  A new purse will be a full purse.  😉

Have a Happy New Year!! I wish you and your family a prosperous year surrounded by family and friends.


3 responses to “The Days of New Year

  1. 3continentfamily

    wonderful! thanks again for posting! and Happy New Year 🙂

  2. Other than being constantly on the move or accepting guests, it sounds like so much fun!

  3. It’s so cool to hear how other people celebrate the new year. I have MANY first generation Chinese and Vietnamese American students at my job and we talked all week last week about what their families do for the holiday. Everyone is just a little different.

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