Current New Year's Customs

Would anyone care to update me on current New Year’s customs in Taiwan? I’ve been here a few months and I’m constantly learning the embarrassing way that things have changed over the last thirty years. My in-laws seem to take a perverse pleasure in plunking my wife and me into a situation where we are caught by surprise. Since wa tai-tai is getting tired of this, I

Could you provide examples of New Years customs that have changed?

Actually that’s what I’m looking for. I’ll even settle for a primer on what folks do today and the heck with thirty years ago.

So, just how does a ‘modern’ family celebrate the New Year? We are hearing a lot about making travel trips ‘early’ and that ‘it’s almost too late to plan that vacation for the New Year holiday’ when thirty years ago the only travel was to go home and be with family for the holiday. No one went anywhere for vacations on New Year because service personnel were cranky that they had to work, and the best people were off for the holiday anyway. Sub-par offerings were all you found from restaurants and theaters. Taipei was a ghost town.

Are red envelopes still the thing? For children? Adults? Service providers? Are more formal gifts - wine, whiskey, artwork - expected and/or given? Do adult children take older parents on vacation excursions?

What all do you do for the New Year? I’d like to know BEFORE the New Year is over. Enough with the on the island re-training program.

Changes we have noted outside of New Year:
Funerals - Those flashing ‘Christmas tree’ lights all over the funeral tent, the amount of commercialization in terms of products on display at the funeral, such as cans of drinks, tape recorded chants and crying (wailing) for long periods when folks were obviously taking a break, etc. None of those were in evidence thirty years ago.

Weddings - The western style wedding and customs even when still wrapped in Daoism. The clothes, gifts, ‘instant traditions’ never done before but done now.



An addendum to the previous post:

Big eye-openers that are different form thirty years ago

Temple parades for the god(s) that now include:
RV trucks decked out in

Taipei still is a ghost town on New Year’s Eve and the first day of the new year. At least, it was last year, when I rode around town on my new bycicly (and then had it stolen shortly after CNY while it was too cold to go outside).

I’ll be at home, waiting for my sister to arrive on Feb. 10, and then hopefully getting the opportunity to spend some time with her while the office is still closed, doing something in Taipei or close to Taipei. I don’t think it’s a good idea to plan on spending time on the road (ask Alleycat about his experiences :wink: )

I spent one CNY with my Taiwanese colleague and her parents 2 years ago. I think it was pretty traditional: lots of great home-made food first, then lots of guazi-nibbling on the sofa with the cat in the lap while watching hilarious New Year shows on TV. And a short look outside at twelve to let off some firecrackers and say Hi to the neighbours.


Red envelope is always the thing.

I’d say vacationing overseas, rather than returning to the hometown, is a big change. A decade ago I had no problems going overseas for Chinese New Year. Now I’m having a bear of a time trying to find a flight off the island to anywhere besides Hong Kong or Bangkok.

(1) Spring cleaning … and smear that sticky stuff over the Kitchen God’s mouth (if you have one).
(2) Hang up a red piece of paper with the character “fu” (prosperity) upside down on your front door … you can put up red lanterns and other decorations too.
(3) Eat a big meal w/ family
(4) Eat Shui jiao (dumplings) at midnight
(5) Go out and set off some firecrackers
(6) Wear a new pair of clothes on New Year’s Day (not white, as that’s a symbol of death)

That’s all I can think of … oh, and of course the red envelopes … and going to the local temple to “bai bai” for your ancestors and to bring good luck and fortune.

Okay, another change noted so far. Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s the firecrackers were set off in the morning at sun up.

The red envelopes for the household children were given on New Year’s Eve and put under the pillow. Then they were opened on New Year’s morning. Other children, friends and neighbor

Are there any grand parades in the streets with costumes and dancing like they have in HK, Singapore, or even China town NY?
This would be the one thing to make me reconsider taking off during the lunar new year…


[quote=“BlackMamba”]Are there any grand parades in the streets with costumes and dancing like they have in HK, Singapore, or even China town NY?
This would be the one thing to make me reconsider taking off during the lunar new year…


If you consider karaoke singing girls on the backs of blue trucks and cheaply made floats with bin-lang chewing drivers who’ve been up for three nights straight on whisby weaving across the street a “grand parade” …

I’ll be once again participating in the traditional Chinese emasculation ceremony. Last year I asked my wife if everyone here does this every Chinese New Year and she said, “It’s Chinese New Year?”

And neglect to take them down until just before the following CNY…when you replace them with new holiday decorations!

[quote=“BlackMamba”]Are there any grand parades in the streets with costumes and dancing like they have in HK, Singapore, or even China town NY?
This would be the one thing to make me reconsider taking off during the lunar new year…

Don’t these festivities usually take place two weeks after CNY? In Taipei they have a big Yuan Xiao Jie activity at the CKS Memorial. In San Francisco, the big Chinese New Year parade is usually on a weekend a couple weeks after CNY. I attended last year’s parade in SF. CNY itself is pretty low key, except for the firecrackers going off all over the city on the 5th day (IIRC).

Wear new clothes on New Year Day. Better if you wear something red. Best if it’s underwear.

And just like Chinese food is just food in Taiwan, Chinese New Year is just New Year in Taiwan.

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that people start flocking to the beauty spots around Taipei on New Year’s Day – i.e., the family go out for a jaunt together rather than staying at home as in the past.

I used to look forward to having Wulai and its lovely surroundings almost to myself on chu yi, and largely so on chu er as well, but three or four years ago that suddenly changed, and I was dismayed to find the road to Wulai jammed solid with cars from early morning onwards. I think it was because the weather was fine and sunny for the first time in many Chinese New Years, which prompted huge numbers of people to decide to take advantage of it by driving out to somewhere nice in the suburbs, probably expecting that they’d be the only ones to do so and would have the roads to themselves. The result was horrendous gridlock, the worst I’ve ever seen anywhere in Taiwan. It remained pretty much the same for the rest of that year’s holidays, and has been repeated (though never quite as bad as that first time) each year since then.

With the weather as lovely as it is now, you can expect a horrible crush of cars and people at any place worth visiting on the outskirts of any big city from Wednesday through to the end of this week.