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Chinese New Year (CNY) is the celebration of another year passing and the ushering in of a new one according to the lunar calendar. It is often referred to as the Spring Festival (春节) as it typically falls around the end of January to mid-February.

The first day of the New Year is celebrated with a new moon and lasts two weeks (15 days.) Family is central to celebrations and people will travel many miles to come home for these special days and a reunion dinner.

It is tradition for people to clean their houses in the days leading up to the start of CNY in order to banish away bad spirits and make way for good luck. Red paper cut-outs and bright posters featuring couplets are a common sight during this time as they signify happiness, wealth and longevity.

Firecrackers are often let off to scare away spirits. This relates back to an ancient tale about a terrible beast called the Nian. According to legend, just as the New  Year dawned annually, the monster would creep into villages in the middle of the night and gobble up any stray children it could before returning to its lair underneath the sea to rest for another twelve months. Tired of its tyranny, one day an old beggar decided to get revenge on the creature that insisted on terrorizing the village. The villagers laughed at him and called him crazy, but he ignored them. The old beggar put up red paper-cuts and set up fireworks around the village.


That night, the village waited with baited breath. The Nian crept into the village and was met with the flashes and bangs of the fireworks. Blinded by the smoke and filled with fear at the paper cut-outs, the Nian turned tail and fled into the mountains never to be seen again…  




Dumplings are central to Chinese New Year. Their shape represents ancient gold ingots and sometimes, in a manner similar to the British and their Christmas Pudding  - people will hide lucky coins in dumplings.


Fish is another staple at Chinese New Year. The character for fish, pronounced ‘YU’ also means fortune and surplus. Wordplay is a big part of Chinese culture, and so fish are often eaten at this time for good luck.

Furthermore, ‘Li’ is the name given to Chinese mud carp (鲤鱼) lǐyú and has the same pronunciation as the word for gift!


Their appearance is not dissimilar to gold parcels and so symbolise wealth and good fortune!


It is traditional for elders to give red envelopes or ‘红包’ to children filled with money. Bank notes must be in as near perfect condition as possible for luck and so it is not unusual to see people queuing at the bank in the days leading up to Chinese New Year to exchange old, crumpled notes for pristine ones.

Due to the pronunciation of  ‘四’ (four) and ‘死’ (death) both being ‘si’ the number four is considered unlucky in Chinese culture. It is therefore bad juju to give money in divisions of four. Eight is a lucky number as ‘八’ ‘ba’ sounds similar to ‘发’ ‘fa’ meaning to progress.

Hospitality has been hit hard by the effects of Covid-19. If you feel like it – now is a great time to support local businesses with take-out options so readily available! Whatever Next are big fans of Noodles and Dumplings in Edinburgh on South Clerk Street! (The lamb kebabs slap.)

*Closed on Wednesdays

Make some food! Head over to our food section for some recipes!


Chinese New Year is a time for family. People travel many hundreds and thousands of miles for the chance to spend time with their loved ones. If you are looking for a way to celebrate CNY with your friends and family, Whatever Next suggests giving someone a call, phone or virtual.

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