8 Last-Minute Ways for Host Families to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Today is February 8th – the first day of Chinese New Year! If this is a surprise, you probably don’t have any plans to celebrate. Maybe through the hustle and bustle of daily life, you forgot to make plans with your international student from China to celebrate this meaningful holiday.

Chinese New Year is one of the most significant holidays in Chinese culture. Especially if it is their first year studying in the U.S., international students will put great importance on celebrating this holiday with other international students, friends and host families.

Don’t panic – gphomestay has you covered. Here are some last-minute ideas for you to celebrate!

1. Contact other host families, and see if you can join in on their plans.

Are there any other host families in your area? Give them a call to find out if they are planning on heading to a Chinese restaurant for some authentic dishes, or hosting a potluck with other host families. Chinese New Year is meant to be celebrated with friends and family– the more, the merrier!

2. Call some local chinese restaurants.

Many Chinese Restaurants will have developed a special menu of dishes to celebrate Chinese New Year. Ask your student what regional cuisine they prefer, and search for restaurants together. Don’t have time to eat out? Get some take-out! Authentic food from home still helps your student feel like you appreciate their cultural traditions and holidays.

3. Find a Chinese New Year parade or celebration to attend.

The Chinese diaspora in your area is sure to have planned a raucous celebration, complete with red lanterns, fireworks and puppetry of the mythical beast, Nian. Check your local Chamber of Commerce or regional newspaper to find out more about events in your area to celebrate the Year of the Monkey.

4. Neglect your housework.

Many traditions and practices around the Chinese New Year are related to ridding one’s self of the bad luck accumulated from the previous year, and gathering and maintaining good luck for the following year. One such practice for getting rid of bad luck is to clean the house thoroughly before or on the first day of the new year. However, new year celebrations bring in lots of good luck for the following year, so cleaning the house after the new year would mean cleaning or “sweeping” away good luck. Make it known to your student that you’ll be neglecting your housework for the duration of Chinese New Year in order to not sweep away bad luck – he or she will appreciate your diligence to the holiday!

5. Pick up some last minute “lucky” items for the house.

Small firecrackers – lighting a few firecrackers during the new year is said to drive away the mythical beast, Nian.
Red lanterns – every major city in China will be covered in red lanterns during the holiday. Remind your students of home by hanging some red lantern decor.
Banners with lucky symbols – Ask your student to help you pick out some lucky Chinese characters to display on a banner or elsewhere in your home.
Fruit or Candy – It’s common for chinese families to display candy or fruit either near their front door or in a common space. This helps everyone think good thoughts – an essential practice during Chinese New Year.

6. Put 8 items into a red envelope.

The number 8 is lucky in China, and red envelopes with money, called “hong bao” are typically given to young children during Chinese New Year. You don’t have to put money inside a red envelope to still practice the tradition of giving hong bao. Giving your students’ favorite candy, momentos, or anything your student particularly likes in a red envelope would show your student that you care about his or her culture.

7. Encourage the whole house to dress in red.

The color red symbolizes good fortune and joy in Chinese culture, so oftentimes during the new year people will wear lots of red. In fact, if it’s the year of the zodiac that was the same zodiac symbol as when you were born, many will wear something red for the entire year to bring about good fortune. Show your student you care by encouraging all members of your family to wear red to mark the occasion of the holiday.

8. Invite your student to share some Chinese New Year traditions.

Every family in the U.S. has private traditions that they celebrate for major holidays. Your student will probably have personal, family traditions for Chinese New Year as well. Invite your student to share with you their family traditions. Be sure to snap some photos of your celebrations to share with your student’s natural parents back home.