Today is the third day of the Chinese New Year. Most people are still on holidays enjoying themselves with family feast, delicious food, visiting relatives and friends, going to art performances, and firing fireworks and firecrackers. Spring Festival, known to the West more as the Chinese New Year and comparable to the Christmas holidays in the West, is the most important celebration for Chinese people every year.
There are various kinds of festivities during the Spring Festival period. Although the official holiday is usually about a week starting from the first day of the lunar New Year, the preparation and celebrations for the New Year actually starts from the last month of the previous year, as early as on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month when many families enjoy “laba porridge” (腊八粥) made with glutinous rice, millet, seeds of Job’s tears, jujube berries, lotus seeds, beans, longan and gingko, and will not end until the day of the Lantern Festival on the 15th of the first lunar month.
Spring Festival Couplets
As a tradition, before the New Year comes, every people would completely clean the indoors and outdoors and beautify their homes with traditional ornaments. In many places particularly in the countryside, people would decorate all their door panels with Spring Festival couplets, putting down the best wishes for good luck, bright future, happiness and wealth, bright future for the New Year. The Spring Festival couplets are usually done with Chinese calligraphy with black or golden characters on red paper.
Among all the decorations, the Chinese character “fu” (福) is a must. This character, meaning blessing and happiness, would usually be pasted upside down. In Chinese, the “reversed fu” is homophonic with “fu comes” or “fu arrives”, both pronounced as “fu-dao-le” (福到了).
New Year’s Eve Family Feast
People attach great importance to Spring Festival Eve. All family members will be together, and have dinner together. Typically, this meal is more luxurious than usual. And the menu is a set of meaningful dishes, such as fish – “yu” (鱼), which is homophonic with ‘abundance’, would be a ‘must-have’. Others dishes like chicken and bean curd, pronounced respectively “ji” (鸡), and “doufu,” (豆腐), meaning auspiciousness (吉) and richness (富), will also be dishes for that dinner.
After the dinner, the whole family will sit together, chatting and watching TV; some families will play Mahjong. According to the custom, people will stay up to see the New Year arrives. In recent years, the 4-hour Spring Festival TV performances broadcasted on China Central Television Station (CCTV) has become an essential entertainment for most of the families. People will watch the programs while waiting for the New Year.
When the New Year comes, people will go out and fire firecrackers and fireworks. People thought the spluttering sound could help drive away evil spirits and tt was one of the most typical customs on the Spring Festival. It was banned for some years in some cities including Beijing due to security, noise and pollution reasons. It was re-opened in many cities last year and in many places you can only do it in the designated areas since it does cause a lot of above mentioned problems.
“Jiaozi” and “Niangao”
Waking up on the New Year, the first thing to do is still the burning of the firecrackers. Then people will extend greetings to their parents. Child will get money wrapped up in red paper as a New Year gift, literally named “Hongbao” (红包). People in northern will eat “jiaozi” (饺子), or dumplings and the shape of the jiaozi is like gold ingot from ancient China. On this occasion, southern people will eat “niangao” (年糕) (cake made of glutinous rice flour), homophonic with “higher and higher year by year”
New technology also has its impact on the customs of Chinese New Year festivities. Nowadays, around the New Year’s Day, particularly in the New Year’s Eve, and on the first day of the New Year, people will exchange SMS (mobile text message) New Year greetings. It has now almost become a custom.
The first five days after the Spring Festival are a good time for relatives, friends, and classmates as well as colleagues to exchange greetings, gifts and chat leisurely. In the north, the second day of the new year is usually the time for daughters to come back home with her family to pay special visit to her parents. The lively atmosphere not only fills every household, but permeates to streets and lanes. A series of activities such as lion dancing, dragon lantern dancing, lantern festivals and temple fairs will be held for days. The Spring Festival then comes to an end when the Lantern Festival is finished.