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 the 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 reunions. 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, are these CNY traditions burdening your wallet this year? Here’s how much CNY would cost you this year, and how these prices compare to five years ago.

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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 relationship with the receiver.

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 lime trees. Decorative knot tassels that feature the “fu” character can cost RM14 to RM70 each online, while plants can cost more.

 2015 price2020 price
Fa Cai SuanRM65RM20 to RM88
Lucky BambooRM47RM2.9 (per stem, 45cm) to RM188 (66cm, potted and decorated)
Potted lime treesRM78RM138 (2/3 feet) to RM2,000 (6 feet)

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, this is how much it could cost you:

Serving size2015 price2020 price
10 paxRM798 – RM2,398RM798 – RM3,980

These prices were compiled from the following florists and shops: One Hamper, 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.

Here’s how much this dish could you:

 2015 price2020 price
½ portion (2 to 5 pax)RM48 – RM86RM68 to RM128
1 portion (6 to 10 pax)RM 68 – RM138RM68 to RM238

These prices were compiled from the following restaurants: Dragon-i, Sheraton Imperial, Swiss Garden and Tai Thong.

6. Mandarin oranges 

During CNY, mandarin oranges (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.

As mandarin oranges are generally imported from China, prices can fluctuate depending on the strength of the ringgit and the volume of harvest. The prices you’ll be paying also depends on the size of the oranges, with larger ones costing more.

2015 price2020 price
4kg to 6kg: RM12 – RM24M, 4kg box: RM19.88
L, 4kg box: RM26.88
XL, 20-piece box: RM48.80

7. Treasure pot

The treasure pot, also known as poon choy or Big Bowl Feast, is one of the more 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. Its ingredients include fresh abalone, oysters, prawns, scallops, and assorted meats and vegetables.

Here’s how much poon choy could cost you this year:

Serving size2015 price2020 price
5 paxRM388+5 pax to 10 pax: RM388+ RM928+
10 paxRM688+

These prices were compiled from the following restaurants: Dragon-i, Dynasty Dragon, Tai Thong and PUTIEN.

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 a lion dance performance can vary depending on the size of your home or venue, the duration of the performance and the type of dance package (acrobatic or non-acrobatic, LED lion dance). The traditional, non-acrobatic lion dance package can cost you as much as RM488 and above, while acrobatic performances can cost upwards of RM2,888.

2015 price2020 price
RM388 and aboveRM488 to RM4,088

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 in previous years.

CNY tradition2015 price2020 price
Reunion dinner
(10 pax)
RM798RM798
Yee sang
(10 pax)
RM68RM68
Mandarin oranges
(ten L-size 4kg boxes)
RM240RM260.88
Treasure pot
(10 pax)
RM688RM928
Lion danceRM388RM488
TotalRM2,182RM2,543

Celebrating Chinese New Year could cost you over RM2,000 this year – and this doesn’t even include decorations, angpows and hamper-giving.

However, you can cut down on expenses and avoid splurging by:

  1. Having a home-cooked CNY reunion dinner at home (cajole your family members to help, or get your relatives to contribute, pot-luck style)
  2. Customising and wrapping your own gift hampers
  3. Baking your own CNY cookies
  4. Shopping online for CNY purchases like decorations, oranges and yee sang – when you search on platforms like Lazada and Qoo10, you can compare prices at a glance
  5. Looking out for credit cards that can get you discounts and freebies at selected dining outlets
  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, instead of in premier supermarkets like Jaya Grocer

If cutting down on unnecessary spending is one way to be wiser with your money, using the right mode of payment can be advantageous too.

This CNY, HSBC has various promotions to help you save during the festive season. Get an RM100 voucher for various Chinese dining outlets, up to 35% off at selected hotel buffets or RM70 off your poon choy at Dragon-i.

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

This article was first published in 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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