The “Chinese Lunar New Year” is the perfect holiday to build “friendships” with Chinese neighbors in your community. This “holiday” is as important to Chinese as “Christmas” is to Americans.
Chinese people living “away” from their homeland often find it to be a “lonely” time, but you can help them “feel right at home and loved.” Don’t let worrying about “making cultural mistakes” keep you from reaching out to your Chinese community.
Here’s some basic “information and ideas” for reaching your Chinese neighbors and friends with “Christ” to get you started.
The holiday “normally” falls in January or February. The date “differs” each year according to the Chinese lunar calendar.
Celebrations officially last from the “first day until the 15th day” of the Lunar New Year. However, if you include the “special activities” prior to the New Year, such as special “family gatherings” on New Year’s Eve, the holiday count increases even more!
2015 February 19
2016 February 8
2017 January 28
2018 February 16
2019 February 5
2020 January 22
OUTREACH: Throw a party! Invite Chinese students and your neighbors to your church or home for a Chinese New Year’s Eve party.
This is a time for family and eating. Many of the “food” items eaten at the New Year time have a “special” meaning. For example, “oranges” are considered a symbol of wealth, while “fish” are symbolic of abundance. Plants and food items are the most popular “hostess” gifts during the holidays.
Two “big family meals” take place at Chinese New Year, each one consisting of “dozens” of dishes. The first one is on “Chinese New Year’s Eve” and the other is on the evening of “Chinese New Year’s Day.”
On Chinese New Year’s eve, family members (especially in northern China) participate in making “jiaozi.”
Jiaozi, a meat dumpling, is the “traditional” food eaten on Chinese New Year.
The jiaozi is “cooked” the following day and will be eaten for “breakfast,” and sometimes for lunch. To many Chinese, eating “dumplings” on the New Year is as important as eating “turkey” on Thanksgiving is to many Americans.
OUTREACH: Invite Chinese students and neighbors to your home/church for dinner. Whether you serve Chinese food or Italian spaghetti, your invitation will open doors of friendship you never imagined.
OUTREACH: Ask your Chinese friends to teach you to make jiaozi or other Chinese food. Ask them ahead of time what ingredients should be purchased and visit an Asian grocery store.
Millions “jam” Chinese public transportation to get to their “parents’ or grandparents’” homes prior to the start of the holidays, which is why Chinese New Year is often dubbed as “the world’s largest annual mass migration.”
Due to “work” responsibilities or “finances,” not everyone can return home. Chinese New Year, therefore, becomes a special time for “Christians” to reach out in friendship to those who feel “lonely and isolated.”
OUTREACH: Chinese who live abroad often miss the excitement of the holiday and many really miss their families at this time of year. A meaningful way to express interest in their lives would be to simply acknowledge the festival, ask them about the holiday traditions and past family celebrations. This is easy to do as you greet people at the grocery store, clinic, school, etc. This will help open the door for a longer, deeper conversation later.
Lots of “doorbells” ring on the first day of the New Year as people visit “friends and relatives” to pass along New Year greetings. Some visitors don’t even go “inside” the homes, but merely stop at the door to share a “word of cheer.”
Surprise your neighbors and friends by saying “Happy New Year” to them in their primary language. It’s easy! Just play the “recording and repeat” out loud.
People also exchange greeting cards at Chinese New Year. People “seldom” send cards any “other time of the year,” not even at birthdays. Printable Chinese New Year greeting card are available in English, Simplified and Traditional Chinese characters.
Visiting neighbors, long lost friends and family is “important” during the holiday. If an adult visits a home that has a “child” – anyone from a baby to a young, unmarried adult – the adult gives a “red envelope” to the child. Inside the “decorative” envelope is money.
OUTREACH: Give a greeting card. Either download one here or make your own out of red construction paper, glitter and glue. Put on something red (the color of new year’s) and take them to Chinese students studying in local colleges, to the Chinese doctor in your community and to other businesses where Chinese work. Whether the Chinese have been in your country for generations or are newly arrived, they will appreciate that you thought of them on their special day.
OUTREACH: Give the best gift! Give Chinese or bilingual Bibles as Chinese New Year gifts. You can purchase these from www.biblica.org or www.bibles.com. If your friend is originally from Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan, they will be able to read Bibles written in “traditional” Chinese characters. If they are from China or Singapore, they will read Bibles written in “simplified” Chinese characters. You can also order a free bilingual book of Luke while supplies last.
On New Year’s Day, people usually stay home to “relax and eat” traditional foods.
Some go to temples, burning “incense” to idols on the first day of the festival. Temples visited during the New Year may be “Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian” or any one of many temples built to Chinese “traditional gods.”
Christians worship God and “pray” for His blessings in the coming year at special “church” services. For many believers, this will be the “first” time they tell their families about their “new found faith.”
The “last” day of Chinese New Year is known both as the “Lantern Festival” and “Yuan Xiao Festival” (yew-EN-shee-ow.) It “marks” the end of the holiday. People light “lanterns” that float into the night sky or “stroll” through local parks that have large colorful “decorative lanterns” on display.
Children can make their own paper lanterns by downloading these instructions.
OUTREACH: Decorate your party with lanterns. You can even have your Chinese friends help you make the lanterns. Buy the supplies and make them together.
At midnight, at the start of the “fifth” day of the New Year, many Chinese set off a “barrage” of fireworks to welcome the “money god” and his arrival on earth for the coming year. Legend says that whoever sets off the “loudest and largest” amount of fireworks “first” will become “rich” during the coming year. The “deafening” fireworks on this night even surpass the “lights and sounds” of New Year’s Eve!
OUTREACH: Get fired up! If fireworks are allowed in your community, set them off along with your Chinese friends on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Watch them smile. Most young Chinese say the fireworks are a fun way to bring in the New Year and do not hold to the superstitions above.
The “customs” associated with Chinese New Year are “numerous” and can vary slightly from “region to region.”
Pray that God will bless Chinese people around the world during the coming festival and the coming year.
Pray that many will hear of God’s goodness and his plan of salvation.