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Spring Festival

Updated: Jul 21, 2017 travelchina.gov.cn Print

The Spring Festival, which is also known as Chinese New Year, is celebrated by the Chinese as their most important festival and has a history of over 4,000 years. It is an occasion on which people pray for a good harvest,and enjoy themselves. Nowadays, the festival is celebrated from the evening of the last day of the 12th lunar month to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the new lunar year.

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During the Spring Festival, Han Chinese and many of China's other ethnic groups hold a variety of distinctive celebrations in order to honor deities and ancestors, symbolize the replacing of the old with the new, welcome the New Year and pray for a good harvest. People try their best to spend Chinese New Year with their families so that they can welcome the New Year and the happiness that they wish it will bring with those closest to them.

Festive activities

Spring Cleaning

In the days immediately before the New Year celebration, Han Chinese families usually give their homes a thorough cleaning. It is believed that the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the past year and makes their homes ready for the good luck that the coming year will bring. Brooms and dust pans are symbolically put away on the first day so that the newly arrived good luck cannot be swept away.

Staying up Late on New Year's Eve

The tradition of staying up late or even staying awake the whole night on Chinese New Year's Eve, known as "shousui", has been practiced since ancient times. The act has two symbolic meanings: For older people, those who stay awake to experience the arrival of the New Year are thought to be treasuring their precious time, whereas young people do so in the hope of adding to their parents' longevity. 

Visiting Family and Friends on New Year's Day

On the first day of the first lunar month, Chinese parents usually bring along their children to make a ceremonial visit to their friends and relatives. People offer auspicious greetings while bowing or kowtowing to the seniors, and the host entertains his guests with light refreshments, sweets and red envelopes stuffed with money.

Decorating Spring Festival Couplets

"Chunlian" are Spring Festival couplets written or printed on bright red paper. This is another way of expressing auspicious New Year wishes. Chunlian originated from the evil-exorcising peach wood charms used in ancient China. People paste chunlian in the doorposts of their homes to help create a jubilant festive atmosphere since the phrases written on it relate to good luck and prosperity.

Fireworks

Bamboo stems filled with gunpowder that were burnt to create small explosions were once used in ancient China to drive away evil spirits. In modern times, this practice eventually evolved into the use of firecrackers during the festive season. The burning of firecrackers also signifies a joyful time of year and has become an integral part of Chinese New Year celebrations. 

Giving Red Envelopes

During Spring Festival visits between families and friends, the senior members of the family give red envelopes containing cash known as "hongbao" to junior members of the family, mostly children and teenagers, to wish them good luck and good health in the new year. Red envelopes are also known as "yasuiqian" (literally, "the money used to suppress or put down the evil spirit").

Festive food

Jiaozi

Jiaozi, or Chinese dumplings, are a well-known traditional cooked wheaten food in China. In Northern China, it is customary to eat jiaozi at the reunion dinner on Chinese New Year's Eve. However, within China, regional customs concerning jiaozi vary widely, with people in some places eating jiaozi on New Year's Eve, and people in other places eating jiaozi on the first day of the first lunar month. In some mountainous regions in Northern China, the locals eat jiaozi for breakfast from the first day to the fifth day of the first lunar month. People eat jiaozi to celebrate the New Year and pray for good fortune.

Niangao

Niangao is a traditional snack of the Chinese people. Known as Chinese New Year pudding, niangao is made up of glutinous rice flour, wheat starch, salt, water, and sugar. The color of the sugar used determines the color of the pudding (red, yellow or white). Niangao is a popular dessert during the Spring Festival because its pronunciation is a homophone for "a more prosperous year" in Chinese.

Fish

Fish is an indispensable dish at banquets. In Chinese, the character “Yu” (fish) is a homophone for “Yu” (abundance). Fish is also a mascot in Chinese culture. Carp implies “gaining profit”, chub implies “having surplus every year” and mandarin fish implies “getting richer”. Thus every family cooks fish on the Lunar New Year’s Eve. In south China, fish is the last dish of a banquet. People usually leave the fish whole till the next day (i.e. the first day of the lunar year) which represents the good wish of having enough to spare in the new year.

Tangyuan 

It is a tradition to eat tangyuan in south China on the first day of the lunar year. Tangyuan is made of glutinous rice flour and different kinds of fillings. It is cooked and served in boiling water. And it can also be fried or steamed. Tangyuan is called “tuanzi” and “yuanzi” as well which represents family reunion. It is said that tangyuan was originated in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Till today, it is still popular to eat jiaozi in North China and tangyuan in the South.



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