Written by:
Jan 31, 2024

Lunar New Year Traditions

What is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year or Spring Festival is one of the most important festivals in China and a significant event in many East Asian nations. Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon and ends with the Full Moon, which falls between the 1st and 15th of the first month. Lots of traditions and preparations come with Lunar New Year, such as:

  • cleaning the house with extra care before New Year’s Eve;
  • making sure to pay off the debts before New Year starts;
  • eating reunion dinner, exchanging red envelopes, and other gifts.

An Important Part of Lunar New Year

One more significant tradition Chinese families follow before New Year - they usually attach the character “福” (which means happiness and good fortune) upside down to their front door. They do it to attract happiness and prosperity in the coming year. Let’s take a look at how it works.

“福” means good fortune or happiness. The Chinese like to stick the “福” character written on red paper on their door or wall, and doing this means that you will have good fortune in the coming year. But pay attention when you put up the “福” character because you should put the “福” upside down. Why? The word for upside down in Chinese is “倒 [dào]”, and if you take the characters “福[fú]” and “倒[dào]” and read them together, you get “福倒”  [fú dào]”. The character “倒 [dào] meaning “reverse”  is pronounced just like the character for arrival, “到[dào]”. So “happiness reversed” sounds just like “happiness arrives”, and thus putting the “happiness” character upside down means that happiness will arrive at your house.

The History Behind Lunar New Year

You might wonder what is the story behind this tradition and how it started. There are several versions of how this tradition began, let’s learn about 2 of them today.

The first story shows that it was merely a mistake made by one family a long time ago. Rather than placing the symbol upright, the family flipped it upside down. Every time visitors came to their house during Chinese New Year they noted “福” was upside down, and said: “Your Fu is upside down ”. Considering the words “to arrive” and “upside down” being almost homophonous, it sounded like “Fu arrives”. This is one version of how upside down “福” started a manifestation to bring wealth and prosperity to homes.

The second story dates back to the Qing Dynasty period when a servant wanted to impress his master. He wrote “福” on paper and arrange it to be hung around the mansion. It was unfortunate that the workers hired to do the job were illiterate and hung “福” upside down on the front gate. The Master got angry when he found out what happened and seek to punish the ones responsible.

The servant, from his side, used creativity and said that today is Master’s lucky day and that it is actually a good sign. The master believed the servant and remembered how people passing the mansion were saying ‘The fortune has arrived at the master’s house'. In response to this occurrence, the practice of arranging “福” upside down was born. Families paste it upside down every Spring festival hoping to receive good fortune.

Celebrate the Start of the Lunar New Year With Drops

Join the Lunar Luck Challenge in the Drops language learning app and bring the Lunar New Year topic progress to 100% to start your year off strong!

Diliara Umiarova is a Junior Growth Marketing Specialist, interested in Chinese culture and living in Turkey

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