Jan, 2023 - Chinese New Year - How it is Celebrated in Malaysia
A Talk by Patricia Yoon Moi Chia at Ciao Ristorante on Wednesday the 18th January, 2023

Chinese New Year has no fixed date; it falls either in January or February each year. This year it fell on the 22nd & 23rd January. The celebrations stretch over 15 days, with special celebrations on the 7th, 9th and the 15th days.

What are the different celebrations over the 15 days? Why does Chinese New Year move every year?


These were some of the questions given to us in the invitation from Michelle Pease and Marianne Khor and we surely got all the answers and more from Patricia Yoon Moi Chia at the Ciao Restaurant the 18 January 2023.

Patricia welcomed us to the Lunar Year of the Water Rabbit and started the speech with tales about the 12 Zodiac Animals – when asking about our zodiac animal we all knew our own, nearly all animals were represented, but the majority in the group were Dragons. This part is simple as it follows your birthyear, but to know more you also need to know which of the 5 elements you are in.


 The elements are:


1.     Metal (Kam)

2.     Water (Sui)

3.     Earth (Toh)

4.     Wood (Moke)

5.     Fire (Foh)


The Chinese calendar is following the Moon, where ‘our’ calendar follows the Sun and that is why the CNY moves every year.

We then moved on to talk about the traditions of CNY. Why is the colour red – (Auspicious, used for good luck) gold and all the noise so important? It’s all to keep the monster NIan away and he is terrified of the colour red, he doesn’t like noise (so drumming and fire crackers) and bright light from the sun (so the colour gold).


How do you prepare for the New Year?


You start with the kitchen the 23rd of the month before CNY – each day has a special task which has to be done on a special day, cleaning, cooking and offering (Nien Kao) to the Kitchen God – The guardian of the family hearth.


Then it’s time to hang up the CNY Couplets, decorate with symbolic decorations like You Yee(Fish), Gold Nuggets, Gold Coins and Eternal Knots and plants like Bamboo, Lime Tree and Willows.


To make sure your next year will be lucky, you must have:


·      All debts settled

·      Homes cleaned and brooms hidden (no sweeping over CNY or you send out the good luck)

·      Scissors and knives kept away

·      Happy conversations…

·      Rice container filled to the brim

·      Avoid breaking crockery

·      Not wear Black and White

Gifts and colours are very important over the CNY. Here are some of the do’s and don’ts.


Giving gifts like mandarins, Ang Pows, ‘cookies’ like Love Letters, Pineapple tarts and Kuch Bang Kit – plants, but not pointy ones and stay away from cut flowers.


If invited don’t wear Black and White as they are funeral colours.


The celebration starts New Year’s Eve (21 Jan this year) and this is a family Reunion Dinner – the menu should incl.:


Fish – Surplus

Lettuce – Growth in wealth

Sea Cucumber – Happiness

Lotus Root – Togetherness

Dried Oyster – Good Things

Black Moss – Wealth

Dumpling – Like Gold Ingots

Celery – Diligence

Chicken (served Whole) – Completeness

Glutinous Rice Cake / Nien Kao – Promotion of progress

Meat Balls – togetherness

Bamboo Shoots – Smooth Sailing

Green Vegetables – Evergreen

Fresh Oyster – Rising to Prosperity

Long Noodle – Longevity

Abalone – Guaranteed abundance

Shallot - Wisdom

Prawn - Laughter


Yes, that list is long – but you should also get a good life if all comes through, And don’t forget to make all the noise at midnight to keep Nien away – In the past you would stay awake and make noise all night, some still do.


New Year Day – day 1 families welcome the Gods of Heaven and Earth, offering to the ancestors on family altars and temples. Elders are honoured by being served tea with traditional CNY Greetings. Children and unmarried family members receive Ang Pow. The food today is vegetarian.


Day 2 married women (used to) return home to visit their family. Today its more ‘free’ and people visit relatives and friends.


Day 7 is considered the Birthday of Mankind and in Malaysia its celebrated with the Lou Hei Yee Sang for a good life and success – its contains:

·      Candied Coconut – unity

·      Lotus Root – marital harmony

·      Lotus Seeds – fertility

·      Ginger & Peanuts – longevity

·      Red Melon Seeds – happiness

·      Water chestnuts and Pineapple – success and achievements

·      Raw fish – always have more than enough

·      Carrots – May good fortune be upon you

·      Green radish – may you be youthful and vital always

·      Leek, peanuts, sesame seeds, fried crispies, 5 spice powder, pepper, sesame oil, plum sauce, red and white ginger.

Nowadays its sold and eaten over 1.5 month, from 15 days before and 1 month after, so there are plenty of possibilities to celebrate with friends and family.


Day 9 Spring Festival for the Hokkiens, celebrations starts at midnight of the 8 Lunar day.


Day 15 Chap Goh Mei the final day of celebration. Also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day, where young girls would mark mandarins with their names and contact and throw them in lakes and rivers, hoping the right young man would pick it up and contact them.


We ended the morning with our own Lou Hei Yee Sang, a really nice experience for us all.

Thank you so much to Patricia for sharing her family traditions with us. We had a very informative morning which also included a  great Lion Dance performed by the lions and drummers from Xuan Long Dragon and Lion Dance.  


Review by Susan Carlslund, photos from a selection provided by Susan Carlslund, Terrence Perera, Viktoria Oris, Michelle Pease, Oriana Verona, Helen Vandemuelen & Maria Pinho.