Chinese New Year is the biggest festival for Chinese around the world. It is traditionally called as Spring festival and celebrated annually around the beginning of February according to the lunar calendar. In general, people have 7 days of festival break. Each day during the festival period has different traditions to follow, which vary slightly from north to south. What’s more, it is worth mentioning that a few ethnic minorities in China do not celebrate Spring Festival as their most important festival.
Despite these facts, let’s have a look of the customs of Chinese New Year and current habits from five aspects of basic necessities of life.
It is popular said that “food is the first priority of people” in China. Because of this, the family reunion dinner in the new year eve is the most important meal in a year. In the past, people take out the best food they saved since the harvest season to treat themselves at this special time. Nowadays, the sufficiency of food is no longer a big issue in most of the places in the country. It’s so normal to eat well every day that the passion of expectation for a New Year’s Eve dinner is declining. However, the tradition of family reunion remains as the core spirit of this family supper.
People are used to enjoying a big feast that night with abundant fish and meat in different cuisines. Usually, the fish is not eaten up and will be left. It represents the wish of a prosperous new year with abundant and even extra wealth and fortune by partial tone.
Then people will have dumplings on the first day of Chinese new year and noodles on the second day. Dumplings can be made into various shapes, such as the shape of sycee, sunflower, and rabbit. Some family still have the traditions of putting a coin in the dumplings. And the guy who ever get it is believed to be the luckiest in the family.
Speaking of clothing, it is necessary to know that Chinese Zodiac sign is represented by 12 different animals. For instance, the next lunar year in China will be the year of the pig. It is suggested for people whose animal sign is coincident with the new year’s to wear something in red during the year to get rid of bad luck. For the others, they are also willing to buy and wear bring and new clothes to show a better spirit for the new year.
Prior to the Chinese New Year, a thorough spring clean must be done. It means wiping out not only the dust but also all the bad luck. After that, the house will be decorated with spring festival couplets, Chinese knots, red lanterns, and window paper-cuts. All of these red decorations are important symbols of the spring festival.
At this time of the year, the elders will wait and expect all the children to come home and gather together. As the labor in China is mostly concentrated in major cities, the younger generation will have to return to their hometown from their working cities before new year eve. Due to the large population, this will cause a large migration within the nation, which is called Chunyun.
Means of traveling
Due to the reason mentioned above, Chunyun, which is also referred to as the Spring Festival travel season, takes place annually at the beginning and the end of Chinese New Year. Sometimes it’s very hard to get a train ticket in the Chunyun period.
As a result of migrant workers’ temporary leaving, taking Beijing for an example, a busy city in usual would seem to be an “empty city” during festival days. The good thing is there will be no traffic jam, while the inconvenient side is that most restaurants will be closed.
In addition, the spring festival is a time to visit the mother’s family, as tradition has it. Also, it’s a popular time for traveling inside China or abroad.
The fast development of technology has modernized the Chinese New Year. For example, people are passionate in the “Five Lucky Cards Collection” hongbao campaign launched by Alibaba-run Alipay. They not only put on decorations of “Fu” (福) character, wishing for happiness and blessing but also scan them with their phones to take part in the campaign, wishing to win some lucky money. Chinese love sending ‘hongbao’ (red packets with lucky money). Now they can do it by hand or even by WeChat, wishing the receivers to stay young and stay blessed.
At the New Year Eve, people will stay up late, watching CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala, playing Mahjong or poker to wait for the countdown. The most exciting activity would be lighting fireworks and firecrackers just before the countdown. Families, friends, and neighbors would gather and set them up at specified locations, competing and enjoying their fireworks.
Since the new year arrives, people will send greeting messages for good wishes. On the following days, they will go out to visit their relatives and pay new year calls.
There is plenty of time to rest and lots of activities to attend during Chinese New Year. It is a great fun for children to go to temple fairs. There will be celebrations going on such as stilt walking, dragon and lion dance. Many peddlers will come, showing interesting stuff like blowing sugar figure, and selling delicious snacks, such as candied haw, new year rice cake, spring roll. Apart from amusement, people also visit temples and burn incense to worship their gods and ancestors.
The Ancient Stories of Chinese New Year and Celebrations
All in all, I hope that you can have a chance to experience the real Chinese New Year. You can start from joining in a parade in China Town, on 5th February 2019!