Often called Chinese New Year in the UK, but celebrated by communities and cultures across East and South East Asia, the festival starts on the first day of the new moon in the lunar calendar. The whole festival lasts 15 days and celebrates the arrival of New Year and Spring. 

There are so many traditions and ways to celebrate Lunar New Year! Here Hubbubers Natalie Oon and Holly Smith share ways to have a sustainable Lunar New Year – Malaysian-Chinese style 

1) Plenty of Fish 年年有鱼 

A fish is an important centrepiece to a New Year table – fish symbolise the hope for an abundance of food for the next yearas the word ‘fish’ in Chinese sounds the same as ‘plenty’. Find out about how to pick a more sustainable fish for your dish with Hubbub Investigates

2) Jiaozi 饺子 

Jiaozi, or dumplings, are another traditional new year food. They share a shape with ingots so eating them is a wish for wealth in the coming year. A traditional recipe calls for pork and celeryleek or cabbage, but there are plenty of veggie alternatives like these tofu and Chinese chive jiaozi, or get creative and try different fillings from whatever veg you have in your fridge! From the Buddhist influence on Chinese culture, many people also avoid eating meat on certain days of the Spring festival. 

3) New Clothes 穿新衣

It’s tradition to wear new clothes to symbolise the new beginnings that come with the year: red is a lucky colour to wear and avoid black or white garmentsInstead of forking out for a whole new outfit, try swapping, customisingbuying second-hand or rediscovering new but unworn items in the back of your wardrobe for a new year’s look without the price tag 

4) Decorations 装饰 

With 12 animals in the zodiac, that’s 12 sets of decorations to buy and store at homeInstead, opt for decorations with symbols that can be loved and reused every year, such as gold ingots, tangerinesfirecrackers, lanterns, new year's wishes, and plum and peach blossom. That’s one-twelfth of the cost and the storage space! 

5) Recycling red packets  

Lucky red packetsalso called red envelopes, are used for giving money to children and family. The packets have many different nameshongbao in mandarinlaisee’ in Cantonese and ‘ang pow’ in Hokkien. Envelopes with glittery or shiny designs aren't recyclable in the regular kerbside collections, so stick to non-shiny ones if you’re happy to, or keep them out of the recycling.

You can keep red envelopes you receive for use next year, or have a go at upcycling envelopes into decorations. Low waste alternatives are sending digital envelopes or making your own envelopes from red paper 

6) Firecrackers and Fireworks 

Traditionally, the loud explosions from firecrackers and fireworks are to scare off evil spirits and bad luck. But firecrackers are illegal to sell to the public in the UK, and even many Chinese cities have banned fireworks for safety and concerns for air pollution. Fireworks release smoke and chemicals that pollute the air and damage the soil where they land. Still want to have a bang to celebrate? Sparklers are fun, and smaller or ground-level fireworks are easier to clean up after as their plastic casings aren’t scattered as far! 

7) Love your leftovers 

Ordering in food to celebrate the new year? Packing up your leftovers is called ‘da bao’ (this isn't New Year specific, but waste not, want not!) and see if you can pop it in the freezer for another time. Check out our guide to freezing!  

Cooked up a bountiful new year feast? Don’t let it go to waste! Share it with neighbours, on apps like OLIO, create a new meal with the leftovers (fish head soup anyone?) or freeze and keep for a lazy day. 

8) Getting the right gifts  

New year social calls are normally accompanied with gifts like tea, fruit, pastries, or sweets. While the usual extended family visits won't happen this year, if you’re buying gifts for friends and family, ask them what they want so you know it’s something they will enjoyIf you get gift you’re not a huge fan of, see if you can zhuansong (pass on a gift you’ve been given) - maybe you know someone who will like it more than you do! 

9) Spring clean 

To welcome the new year, it’s important to clean one’s home before the new year arrives. As ‘dust’ sounds the same as ‘old’ in Chinese, to properly welcome in the new, the ‘dust/old’ must be swept out. Try out some sustainable cleaning tips using common kitchen ingredients to get ready for the new year! 

10) Paper lanterns   

In Chinese culture, the final day of the Lunar New Year is Lantern festival. This involves looking at displays of huge, illuminated lanterns that are more like sculptures arranged in scenes. Try making homemade lanterns for a fun activity, but keep them hanging as decorations rather than releasing them outdoors as they can end up as litter somewhere when they fall. Even if the paper is biodegradable, the wireframes can still harm wildlife. People also solve riddles on this day – try this as an alternative activity to setting off paper lanterns. 

Gongxi facai - give something new a try?

Whip up these easy and crisp spring onion pancakes with a recipe from Yunnan