Lunar New Year Customs of Taiwan’s Hakka People

On the day before Lunar New Year's Eve, commonly known as the Little New Years Eve, Hakka areas are particularly lively because on this day, Hakka people must worship Tian Gong or Jade Emperor. They must prepare sacrificial offerings, including fruits and three kinds of meat (usually pork, chicken and fish), to worship the god. This is a unique custom of the Hakka area. It is mainly to thank Tian Gong for looking after them during the year and to pray for peace and safety in the coming year.

The Hakka worshipping of Tian Gong begins after midnight, so in the middle of the night you can hear the sound of firecrackers in the streets and lanes. It generates an atmosphere of Lunar New Year. In addition, on the actual New Year's Eve, the Hakkas will worship the God of the Earth and their ancestors, hoping  that everything will go smoothly in the coming year.

On the day of Lunar New Year's Eve, all houses and rooms are cleaned up, and new couplets (red papers with auspicious calligraphy verses written on them) are pasted on the doors and walls of each house to replace the old ones. In the past, the farmer's bullpen and pig pens would be affixed with red papers written with words such as "Six Livestock Prosperous" and those with the word "Full" are pasted on the barn and rice buckets.

Since ancient times, Hakkas have been a hard-working and frugal people who have upheld the concept of compassion by refraining from killing animals. Therefore, on the first day of the Lunar New Year, they refrain from eating meat in their first meal, preferring to eat vegetarian food instead. After breakfast, it is customary for the elders is to go to the temples to worship and pray to the gods to bless their family in the New Year.

The second day of the Lunar New Year is called "Daughter Returns Home" day, which is the day when married women visit their parents home to celebrate the New Year. A married woman will come back home on this day with her husband and children to enjoy a meal with her parents, bringing gifts such as wine and rice cakes, not forgetting to give their parents a red envelope with money stuffed inside. According to traditional customs, a married woman cannot go back to parents home on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day because it means that there is a problem with her marriage. But nowadays, because of the rise of women's rights, this custom has gradually faded out.

According to early Hakka customs, the third day of the New Year is the so-called "Send Away the Poor" day. On this day, every household cleans up and dumps the garbage away from home, a symbolic act of "Sending Away the Ghost of Poverty" that carries the meaning of getting rid of poverty and hoping to get rich.

The fifth day of the New Year is called "Out of the New Year Holiday."  In the Hakka tradition, this is the day the annual holiday ends. In the morning, Hakka people will worship their ancestors, after which they will resume normal work.

On the 15th day of the first lunar month, Hakka people pray for having more children. In the old agricultural society, people sought to have children by offering "rice cakes" to the heavens. The offering was later called "New Child Cake (Xin Ding Ban)." Families that welcomed new babies over the past year offer the cake to their ancestors during the Tomb Sweeping ceremony.

Nowadays, the Xin Ding Ban Festival is held every year in Taichung City
s Dongshi District, and is one of the important festivals that preserve traditional Hakka customs.

Hakka people believe that the 20th day of the first lunar month is "Ripped Sky Day." According to legend, its the day when Nüwa, the mother goddess of mankind in Chinese mythology and the sister and wife of Fuxi, the emperor-god, repairs the pillars holding up the sky. Based on traditional customs, Hakka people do not work on this day; they take the day off. The Hakka people in the Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli areas of Taiwan once hosted the Hakka Folk Song Competition on this day, and the biggest winner was Zhudong Township of Hsinchu County. In 2011, the Hakka Affairs Council designated this day as National Hakka Day.

During the Lunar New Year period, the Hakkas will prepare a variety of ban (rice cakes) to worship the gods, eat with their families, and pray for good luck throughout the year. These include sweet rice cakes, fortune cakes, and turnip cakes.