Chinese New Year In Taiwan

My first Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) in Taiwan has been exciting and confusing to say the least. From being gifted new exotic fruits by my landlord to being handed red envelopes at every bank I pop into, there’s a whirlwind of new customs and traditions I’m being exposed to daily.

Lion DancerWhile researching the holiday, there were many things I came across that I had no idea were significant to the holiday like special colors and foods. Here are the top 5 things I learned about Chinese New Year in Taiwan.

1. Who Gets Money?

Usually younger family members and children are gifted money in red envelopes by the elders on Chinese New Year. It’s a custom for children to put the red envelopes under their pillow at night to attract wealth into their lives.

Just as the color red is worn to bring good fortune, the envelopes are also red to bring good luck and prosperity. In Taiwan as Chinese New Year approaches, many businesses and establishments give out empty red envelopes to patrons with their receipts.

2. Why Do People Wear Red During Chinese New Year?

The color red is said to scare away and ward off evil spirits and bad luck. People wear red during this special time to bring good luck into the coming new year. Most decorations around the home and businesses are also the same bright red color.

3. What Kind Of Gifts Are Not Okay To Give?

Some gifts are never okay to gift to someone. At times it’s because the idea holds a significant meaning or because the name of the item sounds like an omen in Chinese, i.e. umbrella sounds like closing and clocks are a huge no-no because it signifies the time to a person’s death.

Shoes are a rude gift because you’re implying you’d like the person to walk away. In case of accidental gift giving of a taboo item, a person can give the gift giver money so that they technically purchased the item and it’s no longer considered an ominous gift.

4. What Kind Of Gifts Are Okay To Give?

Fruit, cakes, breads, and sweets are always good gifts to stick to when being invited to someone’s home. Typically oranges and pineapples are especially popular gifts.

5. What Special Traditions Do Families Practice?

Often there is a large family feast where chicken stew is eaten. With more traditional families, a picture of the entire group present is taken each year to remember all of the generations.

While fireworks are technically banned in Taipei, you will still see them going off here and there, and they are still allowed in rural areas of Taiwan. These special fireworks are the auspicious red color and are set off in hopes that the loud pop will scare away evil spirits.

Have you celebrated Chinese New Year? What was your favorite tradition or aspect of the holiday? Share your answer with other travelers in a comment below!

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