Chinese New Year Preparation
Preparing for the Chinese New Year begins on personal and social front and can start months before the New Year. These preparations are made in the hope to usher the New Year in the best context possible.
Most people try to settle their debts with friends before the New Year so that they can start the New Year debt free. However, this settling of debt often refers to debt between friends and do not include home or car loans with financial institutions. These are considered as investments.
Many people will also check predictions of their luck in the New Year. The Chinese calendar has a 60 year cycle and each year is presided by a star. Everyone has a star that corresponds with the year of birth. This birth star may conflict with next year’s presiding star, 犯太岁 creating difficulties in work, business or personal life.
To avoid or minimize the impact, rituals can be conducted at temples before the New Year. During the dates for these rituals, temples are often crowded with devotees.
Nearer to the New Year families start their spring cleaning to welcome the New Year. This is the period when new furniture or minor renovations will be undertaken. Chinese New Year decorations such as couplets, banners are used to create a festive atmosphere.
A major activity before the New Year is the exchange of gifts. Most of the gift items have symbolic meanings or status symbols to demonstrate good will or to express good wishes. New Year gifts can be presented to family, friends and between companies.
Popular items include New Year cakes, Niangao, 年糕 in auspicious shapes, Mandarin oranges, Bakkwa (BBQ meat), sweets, candies, chocolates and hampers. New Year cards 贺年卡 are also sent to family members, friends and business contacts.
A few weeks before the Chinese New Year, markets and fairs specializing in New Year goods can be found in most cities. These markets offer foodstuff, candies, New Year decorations, flowers, clothes, New Year CDs and almost everything required for the New Year. These items are bought as gifts, for home consumption or used to entertain visiting family members or guests.
These New Year markets often end in the early hours of New Year's day. Many people visit these markets after their reunion dinner and stay till after midnight to buy the items at huge discounts.