Spring Festival is the first day of the lunar calendar and usually occurs somewhere between January 30 and February 20, heralding the beginning of spring, hence the name Spring Festival. The traditional festival is also a festival of reunion; no matter how far away people are from their homes, they will try their best to get back to have the Reunion Dinner. Through the evolvement of thousands of years, a series of customs are spreading far and wide.
As to the origin of the Spring Festival, there are many colorful legends and sayings. Legend has it that in ancient China there lived a monster named “Nian” who looks ferocious with a horn on the head. Nian occurred in village only on a fixed period in the end of a year in Chinese lunar calendar. Each time when Nian came, disasters were brought for he devour the cattle and even kill people. Thereupon, people got together to discuss how to dispel the monster. Then during the period people predicted Nian would come, they beat gongs and drums with a lighting bonfire in front of their doors. As a result, Nian dared not come out from his deep forest. Later on, gongs and drum beating were instead by firecrackers. People called this “Guonian”.
What Chinese People Do in Spring Festival
There is the custom of sweeping the dust. Just before the Spring Festival comes, every household will give a thorough cleaning to bid farewell to the old year and usher in the new. This custom shows a good wish of putting away old things to welcome a new life.
Pasting Spring Couplets
Pasting Spring Couplets is one of the essential activities. As a way decorate homes in order to add to the atmosphere of festivity, all the door panels are pasted with Spring couplets which is written in Chinese calligraphy on red paper by ink brush. The content is various, indicating the wishes for a bright new year. Each pair of couplets is symmetrical with the same length. Apart from couplets, pictures of the god of doors and wealth will be posted on front doors to drive away the evil spirits and welcome peace and good luck.
Staying up Late
Staying up late on New Year's Eve is a custom everywhere in China. After eating dinner on the New Year’s Eve, the whole family will sit together, chatting and watching TV to wait for the first day of the next year. According to custom, each family in villages will stay up to light fireworks when the New Year ring goes off.
Having Dumplings or Niangao
Eating dumplings (jiaozi) is a custom in northern China. On New Year’s Eve, the whole family will sit together to make jiaozi and celebrate the Spring Festival. People eat jiaozi and wish for money and treasure. The tradition of having jiaozi is very important during the Spring Festival. You cannot have a complete Spring Festival without having jiaozi. People in northern China eat jiaozi on the eve of Spring Festival. The Chinese character “jiao” in “jiaozi” sound like “jiao” which implies union. Since the shape of “jiao” resembles a gold ingot, eating them symbolizes the gaining of wealth. Throughout southern China, niangao (New Year cake, a thick steamed pudding of glutinous rice flour) is made in a great variety of shapes and flavors. The character “gao” in the word “niangao” is homonymous with the word “high”, suggesting “higher and higher, one year after another”.
Setting off Firecrackers
Setting off firecrackers is a custom in all over China. People once thought the loud, cracking noise was able to ward off evil spirits. In modern days, people prefer to light fireworks which symbolize best wishes burst into bloom. What a lively night!
In addition, New Year’s visit and gift money are necessary and important. Upon waking up on New Year’s Day, everyone dresses up. The elder generation will send lucky money wrapped up in a red evelope as a New Year gift.
For the recent decades, the New Year’s Gala held by China Central Television (CCTV) has become a necessity on the New Year’s Eve. For nearly thirty years, its value has gone far beyond a variety show. It is essential entertainment for the Chinese both at home and abroad. Many Chinese would like to watch the gala while having the dinner on New Year’s Eve.
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