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Chinese New Year History and Tradition: Wrath of the Dragon

Before you get set to prepare your Chinese New Year celebration, we have a bit of information for what you need to know about the holiday that inspires dragons to dance.

When you hear the words "Gong xi fa cai" you would think it means "Happy New Year," but it actually means "Congratulations and Be Prosperous"!

But, why say "congratulations"? Strange as it may be, one of the stories behind this saying comes from the days of ancient China when a dragon was roaming the streets. This dragon, a huge, mean creature, was terrorizing many villages by eating people. To keep the dragon happy, Chinese people would leave a rice treat wrapped in bamboo leaves outside their door for him to eat (and that signifies another Chinese festival during the year).

So, whenever the new year comes, people would congratulate each other for having survived another year without being killed by the dragon!

Learn Chinese

Congratulations and Be Prosperous: Gong Xi Fa Cai [gong shi fah tsai]

Happy New Year: Xin Nian kuai Le [sheen nian kuai le]

Have surplus: Nian Nian You Yu

Good Luck vs. Bad Luck

Good luck is signified by:

wearing red
opening your windows to let the bad spirits out
Using the number 8 (means to prosper) and the number combo 168 (to keep prospering)

Bad luck is signified by:

The number 4 (means death)
Giving clocks and watches as gifts (they also symbolize death)
Buying books in the new year, because that symbolizes losing

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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