Things I Miss about Chinese New Year in Beijing as an Expat

Every year around this time, I get nostalgic about my time in China. For those of you who don't know I lived in China nearly 7 years of my life and it was some of the most intense and also transformative in my life. There are many reasons I was ready to leave but I also still have many things that I am grateful for and things that I miss. For me, I look back on the Lunar New Year or "Spring Festival" as they call it in China (since no one calls it "Chinese New Year" in China :D) with wonderful memories...

Things I Miss about Chinese Spring Festival in Beijing

Photo: Maud Beauregard

Every year around this time, I get nostalgic about my time in China. For those of you who don't know I lived in China nearly 7 years of my life and it was some of the most intense and also transformative in my life. There are many reasons I was ready to leave but I also still have many things that I am grateful for and things that I miss. For me, I look back on the Lunar New Year or "Spring Festival" as they call it in China (since no one calls it "Chinese New Year" in China :D)...

I will firstly say that none of this article is political or addresses any issues around COVID or Chinese politics, merely the traditions I appreciate and the memories I have living there nearly 7 years of my life..

The Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival, is a celebration of the new year that begins on the first new moon in 2023 between January 21 and February 20. This year, the new moon falls on January 22, which marks the official day of the Lunar New Year. The entire celebration extends from January 21, which is New Year's Eve, to the full moon on February 5 when the Lantern Festival is held.

There are many things you may not know about this special holiday. For example, it’s traditional for families to gather together and enjoy a reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve. Red envelopes filled with money are given out as gifts to children and unmarried adults by their elders. All over the country when I was there, (keep in mind because of China's strict COVID laws things have changed quite dramatically unfortunately), fireworks are set off in order to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck for the coming year. People also decorate their homes with red decorations such as paper lanterns and couplets written in calligraphy to symbolize happiness and prosperity. I still do this every year on my bedroom door because I really like this tradition.. Additionally, people wear new clothes during this time as a sign of renewal and hope for a better future.

Year of the Rabbit 2023

So what does 2023 mean? So, "The Year of the Rabbit" is now upon us, and it's a special one and I always thought it was kind of cool that we can have another 'new start' on the lunar calendar as well. This year marks the start of a new 12-year cycle in which each Chinese year is represented by a different animal. So, if you're not familiar with the Chinese Zodias (I'm not a big believer in this since it represents a whole year of people but the idea is nice nonetheless. So, they say that those born in this year are said to be kind, confident, quick-witted, earnest and goal-oriented. Additionally, each year has an elemental symbol assigned to it according to a 12-year cycle with five elements in total (earth, water, fire, metal and wood). This particular year is part of the water cycle making it a Year of the Water Rabbit which happens once every 60 years.

So as the tradition goes, beyond just revealing personality traits, the year in which you were born can determine a number of factors in your life including lucky numbers and flowers. Depending on your belief in feng shui, the year you were born will affect how you should decorate your house as various colors and geographical directions are considered to bring prosperity. Whether or not you believe in these superstitions or not, there's no denying that this is an exciting time for those born during this special Year of the Rabbit!

Fireworks in Beijing (mayem!)

Photo: Roven Images

China is renowned for its fireworks, and it is the largest producer of them in the world. In the past, this honestly was pure insanity and I have never seen anything like it! Every Lunar New Year's Eve (not under COVID), China puts on one of the most spectacular fireworks displays in the world. But Chinese fireworks are also popular for personal use so they used to sell them on the corner and I have to say, they were the biggest ones that in most countries aren't sold to the general public! The tradition of exploding bamboo, or pao chuk, dates back to when black powder was invented and stuffed into bamboo to create firecrackers. This eventually evolved into paper casings being used instead of bamboo, making firecrackers even more popular throughout China. This also means that the streets are littered with tons of reddish pink firecracker paper and then it's all cleaned up the next day even if people keep setting them off all week long. Good luck sleeping! :D

Fireworks are an integral part of Chinese culture and are used to celebrate all sorts of occasions from weddings to festivals. They symbolize joy and good luck, as well as a way to ward off evil spirits. Fireworks have been a part of Chinese culture for centuries and will continue to be so for many years to come.

Chinese blessings

Photo: Yuwei Shaw

The Chinese culture is full of blessings and wishes for good fortune. These are the most popular blessings that are commonly used in various occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and the Lunar New Year. These are sayings you hear repeatedly when you work at a Chinese company and with Chinese friends.

The first blessing is “新年快樂” which translates to “Happy New Year”. This blessing is usually used during the Lunar New Year or other special occasions. It expresses a wish for a prosperous and happy new year.

The second blessing is “身體健康” which translates to “Wishing you good health”. This blessing expresses a wish for good health and well-being for the recipient.

The third blessing is “恭喜發財” which translates to “Wishing you wealth and prosperity”. This blessing expresses a wish for financial success and abundance in life.

The fourth blessing is “萬事如意” which translates to “May everything go well for you”. This blessing expresses a wish for all aspects of life to go smoothly and without any obstacles or difficulties.

Things I appreciate from Beijing's Spring Festival Years

Here are some things I am grateful for from my time there I look back on fondly..

I loved watching from the rooftops as Beijing's sky literally exploded that was absolutely incredible for any foreigner to witness!

I loved wandering the streets with my friends that evening and you hear the sounds of laughter and clinking of glasses from people having meals for their families.

At the time of the last year of the Rabbit in 2011, I was working for China Radio International and got to do a radio report on whether or not the Chinese Zodiac and luck were real.

As for China in general, there are other things I appreciate:

I loved watching Beijing open its doors to the world and put itself on the international stage with the Beijing 2008 Olympics that I was so fortunate to attend...

I appreciate all the wonderful friends I had there, both Chinese and from all over the world. Some of the most incredible people I have the good fortune to call my friends in life and many of them I'm still in contact with today and see occasionally since they are all crazy expat travelers and nomads doing amazing things.

I am so grateful to the Chinese people for their kindness and openness as I struggled to get around and find my way as I learned Chinese.

I miss the incredible food and hardly a day goes by where I don't wish I had some INCREDIBLE, AUTHENTIC Chinese food!

I miss speaking Chinese with people as it remains one of my favorite languages I only get to speak now at Chinese restaurants occasionally.

Here's to the YEAR OF THE RABBIT! May everyone have the best year possible! 😉


ANDREA HUNT - Online Transformational Life Coach & EFT Tapping Practitioner based in Munich, Germany

I'm an accredited transformational life coach from Animas Centre for Coaching UK  and a member of the International Coaching Federation. I'm also a Level 2 practitioner in EFT Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique) and a member of AEFTP (Association of Emotional Freedom Technique Professionals).

If you're not sure where to start transforming your life, you can download my free ebook on How to Start Your Personal Growth Journey.

Are you ready to change your life, let go of old beliefs, empower yourself for a mindset shift to move forward? Mark Batterson says: You're always one decision away from a totally different life.

If you're interested in booking a free 15 minute discovery call for transformational life coaching, EFT Tapping or checking out my services page click here.

header photo: Jason Leung

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