Six Things You Want to Know About the Chinese Spring Festival

Based on the Wikipedia’s article on Chinese New Year. When I first came here in 2010, I thought it was going to be something huge, but apart from the mind-and ear-blowing fireworks I did not experience anything else. Sure, as it turned out later, it is a time families gather and spend time with each other indoors, watch TV and binge on traditional dishes for days long. Below, I tried to show you a simplified version on Wiki’s piece on this 7-day celebration, which still is a very interesting period of the year for foreigners here, if nothing else but we are to enjoy a more tranquil, laid-back city for a good few days and do finally rest up a bit.

  1. Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is known as “Spring Festival” 春節 (Chūnjié) It marks the end of the winter season, analogous to the Western carnival. So important, Chinese people start talking about it in November as if it was around the corner: Oh, let’s do this after CH new year! 
  2. The festival begins on the first day of the first month 正月( Zhēngyuè) in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day.
  3. Chinese New Year’s Eve, a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner, is known as Chúxī (除夕) or “Eve of the Passing Year.” Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the “Lunar New Year“.
  4. People will pour out their money to buy presents, decoration, material, food, and clothing. It is also the tradition that every family thoroughly cleans the house to sweep away any ill-fortune in hopes to make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red colour paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of “good fortune” or “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”. On the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with families.
  5. Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies. The family will end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes (hóngbāo 红包). The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.
  6. According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nián (年, meaning year). Nián would come on the first day of New Year to eat livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nián ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nián was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nián was afraid of the colour red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nián. From then on, Nián never came to the village again. The Nián was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk.
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