It’s time to prepare for a year of abundance by brushing up on all the etiquette and lore surrounding it from the places to go to, things to eat and clothes to wear. Overwhelmed already? Don’t worry, we’ve hunted, shopped, researched and trawled KL to bring you a special Little Steps Guide to Chinese New Year. We’ve also put together a handy guide to help kids understand what CNY is all about – check it out here.
There are two main temples worth a visit during Chinese New Year. The first is Thean Hou Temple situated on Lorong Bellamy on top of Robson Heights. Every year the beautiful temple is decked out in literally thousands of red lanterns and visitors can enjoy free performances such as lion dance, cultural festivals and religious ceremonies. Another temple to visit is Chan See Shu Yuen Temple which is one of the largest and oldest surviving Buddhist temples in Malaysia. Built in the late 1890s you’ll find this former Chinese clan house at the southern end of Jalan Petaling. Kuan Ti Temple in Chinatown is also worth a visit during CNY. The temple is also home to replicas of Guan Di’s weapons, including a famous copper sword (guan dao) and spear (guan jie) which Taoist devotees believe that that they will be blessed if they touch or lift the former, which is not as easy as it sounds because it weighs an imposing 59kg.
Thean Hou Temple, 65, Persiaran Endah, Taman Persiaran Desa, 50460 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +603 2274 7088, Facebook
Chan See Shu Yuen Temple, 172, Jalan Petaling, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +603 2078 1461
Kuan Ti Temple, 168, Jalan Tun H S Lee, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +60 3-2072 6669
If your kids are light sleepers, be warned that CNY will be filled with fireworks displays and children throwing and setting off firecrackers! If you live in a condo you’ll be able to see displays practically every night. In case you're thinking of purchasing some, do take note that firecrackers and fireworks are actually illegal in Malaysia, although that has not stopped sellers from supplying them in the market. However, with the pandemic in place, there may not be as many firework displays to look out for this year.
Traditionally, Chinese families will shop for new outfits for the whole family to welcome the New Year and symbolize a new beginning. If you really want to get into the spirit of Chinese New Year, best grab yourself and your kids, a traditional Chinese outfit which is a Cheongsam for the girls and Changshan for the boys. Most kindergartens and pre-schools will hold a Chinese New Year event where your children might be required to wear traditional dress. Plus there will no doubt also be a whole host of other CNY events you’ll be able to attend. You will literally see these cute traditional garbs everywhere around town at the moment and there’s something for everyone from little tiny babies right up to adults. We’ve shopped until we’ve dropped to bring you the best places to get yourself decked out in some CNY threads.
One of the things most synonymous with CNY is the loud, colorful and mesmerizing lion and dragon dance, which signifies good luck and a fresh start. When it comes to the dances they normally depict actions such as sleeping, waking up, scratching, stretching, playing, eating, jumping and resting. Chinese drums and cymbals set the rhythm to the moves for the performers to follow. The dancing lions summon good fortune and drive away bad luck. There will be plenty of opportunities to see traditional lion dances, as well as other CNY performances such as cultural dances, traditional instruments and more all across the Klang Valley. Check out the Little Steps Guide to Lion Dances and Cultural Performances across the city for more details on where and when to see them.
NB: While most kids will be fascinated by the lion dances, be warned that they are very loud performances and this can frighten toddlers a little bit!
Ang Pows are small red envelopes containing money, which are given out during CNY as gifts. Usually married adults give the packets to young children as a sign of continued prosperity. Tradition has it that the amount in ang pow should consist of even numbers — odd numbers denote loneliness. While RM1.10 was the norm in the past (10 sen to even things out), nowadays, ang pow of between RM5 and RM10 is more common. There are several do's and don'ts when it comes to ang pow. Make sure you’ve read our Little Steps Ang Pow Guide so you aren’t caught out during the CNY holiday.
It is customary to give and receive oranges and tangerines during CNY due to them being symbols of abundant wealth and happiness. Oranges sound like the word ‘gold’ in Cantonese and is thought to promote wealth and prosperity, while tangerines symbolize good tidings and luck because the word tangerine soundslike ‘good luck’ in Chinese. Visitors are expected to give oranges or tangerines to their hosts during CNY. Both are readily available in all supermarkets including Ben's, Village Grocer, Cold Storage and Jasons at BSC. If you prefer to deliver it to your house, you can consider shopping at HQ Premium Fruits or Summer Pots.
Just like at Christmas, CNY is a time for choosing a tree, putting it up inside, or at the entrance to, your house. Different trees have different meanings so it’s up to you which one you decide to go for. Lucky bamboo and mandarin oranges symbolize luck and prosperity, cherry blossom means a fresh start for the beginning of the year and water lilies represent new growth. Check out our top places to find CNY Flowers and Trees here and take the kids along to shop for find the perfect floral decorations for your family.
As always in Malaysia, food plays an important part of the CNY festivities. The most important meal would be the CNY reunion dinner held on the eve of Chinese New Year. This is where family members return to their family or ancestral home to have a big feast with loved ones. During CNY itself, a lot of restaurants in KL will be closed so it’s worth heading out to some of the surrounding cities such as Penang, Ipoh or Melaka. For a full rundown of what to eat and where, check out our Little Steps CNY food Guide here. Also check out our guide to Top Places for Reunion Dinner here.