How Much Will Chinese New Year Traditions Cost You This Year?

CNY traditions

With Chinese New Year songs piping out from every shop you pass by, it is impossible not to be excited.

However, with inflation affecting everything else, be prepared to fork out more this year. Especially if you want to maintain the air of merriment and traditions of the New Year.

In general, imported festive food may cost more due to the recent disruption in shipping via the Red Sea. Prices of gourmet food and wine from the European Continent is expected to rise due to the tighter supply. However, delicacies from China which make up the bulk of in-demand food items may be spared this supply disruption.

According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), Malaysia’s inflation rose by 1,5% in the last quarter of 2023.  Food is  identified as the main contributor to the increase.

“Food and non-alcoholic beverages group, which contributes 29.5 per cent of total CPI weight, recorded a moderate increase of 2.3 per cent as compared to 2.6 per cent in November 2023.,” DOSM chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said. While Malaysian may not have to brace for a huge price jump, you will still need to be prepared to pay a bit more. This is because items like seafood, preserved meats, dried mushrooms and other indispensable items for reunion dinners are imported.

Looking at the rising cost of Chinese New Year traditions, how will you be celebrating this Lunar New Year?

1) Reunion dinner

No Chinese New Year reunion dinner is complete without a lavish meal – no horsing around it. Traditionally, families gather at their ancestor’s home to have a home-cooked meal together. It is more about family spending time together and not really about enjoying expensive meals.

Today most families opt to pay for a set course meal at Chinese restaurants, as cooking a huge meal takes too much time and effort.

A lower-range Chinese New Year set menu for 10 people, which cost about RM5500++ in 2014 will cost at least RM1200 to RM1700 this 2024!

Read More: Enjoy A Delicious Lunar New Year’s Dinner At These Stunning Locations

2) Mandarin oranges

Mandarin orange is a must-have for the Lunar New Year.  Malaysians usually have to prepare to pay more but surprisingly, the prices are reportedly lower this year.

The price of lokam (mandarin oranges) from China will be more competitive compared to last year. The Star reported that this is due to a bumper harvest in China producing 20% more fruits.

3) Yee sang

Yee sang, or Spring Toss, is a Malaysian Chinese tradition to usher in the Lunar New Year.  It is believed to symbolise good luck, prosperity, health and all things auspicious. Yee Sang comprises thin slices of pickled vegetables, raw fish and other ingredients which are mixed together thoroughly before the dish is consumed.

A full portion of salmon yee sang from Chinese restaurants instead of supermarkets, used to cost around RM75 in 2014, but it will cost over RM200 this year.

Read More: 6 Great Places To Toss Yee Sang In Kuala Lumpur

4) Ang  pow

There may not be a written rule or market rate for ang pows, it does fluctuate in tandem with inflation. Some purists think that pegging a rate on ang pow go against the spirit of Chinese New Year as the gift of giving red packets should be from the heart.

Although, the amount to give in your ang pow is entirely up to you, an RM2 ang pow may be frowned upon by youngsters. However, increasing the amount you give in your ang pows every year just to save “face” may result in heavier financial burden.

Read More: Beginners Guide To Ang Pow Giving

5) Decoration

Decorating and spring cleaning for the festive season are a given. Traditionally, families decorate their living rooms with vases of pretty blossoms, platters of oranges and tangerines and a candy tray with eight varieties of dried sweet fruit.

These decorations, mainly in red and gold, symbolise good fortune and joy. While there were reports of prices going up 10% to 20% last year, that may be averted this year. The big adjustment was already done last year after the pandemic.

6) Lion dance

Lion dances are most often performed during important festivals, such as Chinese New Year to bring good luck to the house or premises visited.

If you are thinking of hiring a lion dance troupe to visit your family, be prepared to fork out over RM2500 for a half hour session.

For most Malaysian Chinese, the above traditions are not something new and have been observed since they were children. However, can we afford to continue these traditions?

This article was first published in April 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Get free weekly money tips!

*Free of charge. Unsubscribe anytime.
newsletter image