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

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

Gong xi fatt chai! You’ll soon be hearing that greeting with Chinese New Year (CNY) just around a corner. With its joyful spirit and rich history, CNY is a fascinating festival.

The Lunar New Year is the most important festival of the Chinese calendar. It is the celebration to welcome the start of a new year and a festival of family reunion. Within all Chinese communities, families get together for a special meal on CNY eve. There are public celebrations with Chinese communities celebrating with lion and dragon dances and parades of traditional costumes. They also welcome the New Year with firecrackers.

However, with increased cost of living and the 6% GST, are these CNY traditions burdening your wallet this year?


1. Red packets

The red packets (or also known as angpow) that contain money are usually given by married couples and elderly to the younger and unmarried ones. It is believed that the money in the red packet will ward off evil for the receiver, and give them good health and longevity. The colour red denotes good luck and abundance in the Chinese culture. This custom still remains but the amount of money distributed has been increasing.

Contemplating how much to give away can be tedious and mentally draining. To help you with your giving plan, we have the ultimate guide for angpow giving to help you decide on how the giving can be broken down according to your different income groups and your relationship with the receiver.  These income groups are divided into no income, low, medium and high income earners from RM23,000 to RM146,000 annually.

But again, this is just a guide. How much you decide to give to whom is very subjective.

2. Decorations

The Chinese would be decorating the house with a variety of decorations to welcome the New Year. Most of the decorations would be red in colour. The most popular New Year decorations are the “fu” character hung upside down, lanterns, paper cutting and plants. The more common plants include fa cai suan, lucky bamboo and potted Mandarin oranges (lokam). While decorations can cost up to RM100 to RM150, the plants can cost more.

3. Reunion dinner

The CNY Eve reunion dinner is the most important dinner of the year. Typically, families gather at a designated relative’s house for dinner. These dishes used to be all made from scratch, but in recent years, the trend is for families to have their reunion dinner at restaurants. Many restaurants require reservations months in advance.

Certain foods are eaten during the CNY eve dinner because of their symbolic meanings, based on their names or appearances. Fish is a must as the Chinese word for fish sounds like “surplus”. Eating fish is believed to bring a surplus of money and good luck in the coming year.

They also believe that eating lucky foods will increase luck in the year ahead. The Eight Treasures Rice contains glutinous rice, walnuts, different coloured dry fruit, raisins, sweet red bean paste, jujube dates, and almonds. Then, there’s tang yuan (black sesame rice ball soup), nian gao (small, sweet and round rice cake), and dishes made from chicken, duck, prawns and pork – each with its own meaning.

If you choose to have your reunion dinner at the hotel or restaurant, it is not only going to cost more this year, you will also be paying 6% GST.

Serving Size2015 Price2016 Price
10 paxRM798 – RM2,398RM818 to RM2,500

These prices were compiled from the following restaurants: Dragon-i, Canton-i, Sheraton Imperial, and Dynasty Dragon.

4. Hamper gifts

CNY is also the time for business associates to show their appreciation for one another with the gift of hamper. This is a special way for businesses to express good wishes to their loyal clients and business associates – and equally help strengthen the current business bond. These hamper gifts not only cost more this year, they have also been subject 6% GST.

2015 Price2016 Price
RM106 – RM2,288RM206 – RM3,888

These prices were compiled from the following florists and shops: Floristika, Eu Yan Sang and Silverbells.

5. Yee sang

Yee sang or Prosperity Toss, also known as Lo Hei is a raw fish salad. It usually consists of 27 ingredients, such as strips of salmon, white radish, carrots, turnips, red pickled ginger, sun-dried oranges, lime leaves, parsley, chilli, jellyfish, chopped peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, shrimp crackers, five-spice powder and other ingredients, laced with plum sauce, rice vinegar, kumquat paste and sesame oil.

Yee sang is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigour. All diners at the table stand up and toss the ingredients into the air with chopsticks while saying various auspicious wishes out loud. It is believed that the height of the toss reflects the height of the diners’ growth in fortunes, thus diners are expected to toss enthusiastically.

Yee sang has also increased by approximately 38%, compared to CNY 2015.

Serving size2015 Price2016 Price
½ portion (2 to 5pax)RM48 – RM86RM66 – RM98
1 portion (6 to 10pax)RM 68 – RM138 RM106 – RM146

These prices were compiled from the following restaurants: Dragon-i, Canton-i, Sheraton Imperial, and Dynasty Dragon.

6. Mandarin oranges 

During CNY, mandarin oranges (or also known as lokam) are considered traditional symbols of abundance and good fortune. During the two-week celebration, they are frequently displayed as decoration and presented as gifts to friends, relatives, and business associates.

The price of mandarin oranges this year will be cheaper by 5% to 10% due to a bumper harvest. The orchards in Fujian province, China, are enjoying a good harvest this year. The production has increased 20% to 30% more than last season as orchards in Fujian province, China, enjoyed a good harvest this year. Last CNY, a 4kg carton of medium-sized lokam cost between RM19 and RM22.

Box WeightPrice Range
4kgRM12 – RM18
6kgRM22 – RM24

7. Treasure pot

The treasure pot, also known as poon choy or Big Bowl Feast, is one of the auspicious and premium dishes to have during CNY. Packed with layers of fresh and top-grade seafood and meat, this pot of treasures would truly capture the hearts of every family member who gets to indulge in this bowl of goodness. The ingredients include fresh abalones, oysters, prawns, scallops, assorted meats and vegetables.

The average price for the treasure pot is almost 33% (10 pax) to 44% (5 pax) more expensive than last year.

Serving size2015 Price2016 Price
10paxRM688++RM916 ++

These prices were compiled from the following restaurants: Dragon-i, Canton-i, Sheraton Imperial, and Dynasty Dragon.

8. Lion Dance

During CNY, you can invite the lion dance troupe to visit your home or business premise to perform the traditional custom of the lion dance. The dance is believed to bring good luck and fortune to the business and home. The price of per lion dance session has remained the same since last year, at RM388.

Be money wise this CNY

You will need a lot of money to get all these CNY traditions in place, – even more than what you spent last year.

CNY Traditions20152016
Red decorationsRM100RM130
(one of each plant)
Reunion dinner
(10 pax)
Yee sang
(10 pax)
Mandarin oranges
(ten 4kg cartons)
Treasure pot
(10 pax)
Lion danceRM388RM388

This calculation is not inclusive of your angpow and gift hamper giving, and it is already RM307 or 12% more expensive than last year.

However, it will only be wise to not splurge and cut-down expenses whenever you can. You can choose to make great savings by:

  1. Having home-cooked CNY reunion dinner at home, because most raw ingredients are not charged GST
  2. Customising and wrapping your own gift hampers
  3. Baking your own CNY cookies
  4. Compare prices before making purchase, especially for yee sang and treasure pots
  5. Looking out for credit cards that can get you discounts and freebies at selected dining outlets. One such card is the HSBC Visa Signature Card.
  6. Creating a CNY budget and sticking to it
  7. Reusing last year’s decorations, whenever possible
  8. Buying your food essentials at cheaper alternatives like Jusco, Tesco and Giant. For example, you can get the lucky bamboo for only RM12 and yee sang at about RM30 at these hypermarkets. However, in other premiere supermarkets like Jaya Grocer and Cold Storage sells yee sang at RM90 and RM110 respectively.

If cutting down on unnecessary spending is one way to be wiser with your money, using the suitable mode of payment can be advantageous too. This CNY, HSBC is having various promotions and campaigns, which includes complimentary yee sang at participating restaurants like Dragon-i, Canton-i and Grand Imperial Restaurant. You can also redeem gifts when you buy your CNY essentials at participating malls including MidValley, Gardens, Pavillion, Sunway Pyramid and several others. Cards involved in these promotions include the HSBC Amanah MPower Platinum Credit Card-i and HSBC Visa Platinum.

Enjoy the holiday and festive season, but always be money wise. Gong xi fatt chai!

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