Chinese New Year, also well-known as Spring Festival, is definitely the biggest festival for Chinese people. Like Christmas, Chinese New Year has a splendid history and many traditions, which differ from any other festivals in the world. Here we are going to start our discussion on the differences and similarities of Chinese New Year and Christmas from the following aspects:
Importance. As Christmas is the biggest western festival, Chinese New Year is the most important festival in China, with a long celebrating history.
Meaning. Both Chinese New Year and Christmas are about family reunion, people will travel all the way back home to spend the great time with families.
Similar season. Both Chinese New Year and Christmas are celebrated in winter, with a long duration.
Let’s get to know more similarities and differences between Chinese New Year and Christmas from the following comparison.
Christmas is an important Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, while Chinese New Year is based on a historic story of Nian (“year” in Chinese), a mythical monster that terrorized villages and eat livestock and children. In this story, the only way to ward off the monster is to hang on red banners and make loud noises with drums and firecrackers. Therefore, “the passing of Nian” is considered as “Guo Nian”, which symbolizes the passing of the celebration of the new year.
Even though both Chinese New Year and Christmas are celebrating during winter, the exact dates vary from each other. The usage of Chinese lunar calendar may be the most distinctive difference from Christmas in the west, which is counted according to the Gregorian calendar.
The date of Christmas doesn’t change from year to year, which is December 25, the holiday usually starts from December 24 to January 6 or so, it depends. And for Chinese Lunar New Year, the date will be different every year, generally around late January or early February, traditionally celebrated for one week.
Around Chinese New Year’s Eve, Chinese people will travel all the way back home from the city they work, regardless of the long distance, which is called the biggest human migration in history. That’s the reason why we suggest our customers try to avoid this period of time. But if you really want to experience Chinese New Year, you’d better book everything ahead of time.
Both Chinese and westerners will prepare for their biggest festival for a long time. For Christmas, some westerners will start preparation from late November, to get ready for everything they might need, including decorations and presents.
For Chinese New Year, some Chinese people prefer to do shopping very early, because some goods get more expensive as the date nearby. In addition, with the highly developed e-commerce in China, lots of online platforms will have big sell, in other words, people will buy things for the new year as the promotion begins. The most significant shopping festival is Single’s Day in China, which is 11st of November.
Chinese New Year and Christmas share one main similarity, the colors accordingly. The themed color for Christmas must be red, green and gold, while red and gold are also typical colors for Chinese New Year, especially red.
Normally you will see decorations for Christmas everywhere even before December, all the streets, shopping malls and homes are delicately decorated with colorful lights, Christmas trees and other stuff related to Christmas.
The decoration style for Chinese New Year is quite different from Christmas. Chinese people use red couplets, paper cuttings, lanterns for decorations. Additionally, New Year’s paintings are also popular, especially paintings with an upside down Chinese character “福”, which means good fortune will come.
It’s interesting that westerners put up Christmas trees during the festival, while Chinese people will buy kumquat trees back home, which indicates good wealth for the next year. Some Chinese people also like to decorate the house with flowers.
In the west, attending mass may be main tradition for some people. For other activities, decorating Christmas trees and houses, writing Christmas cards and exchanging presents are also common.
In China, families will watch Spring Festival Gala on TV together after meal. And during this period of time, adults will give Hongbao to children. Meanwhile, Chinese people will wear new clothes for the new year, to say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new year.
There are parades for the new year in some places, with lion and dragon dances along the streets. What’s more, Chinese people will set off firecrackers and fireworks, so as to expel the evil spirits and bring in good luck for the new year.
It’s important for Chinese people to visit their relatives and friends during Spring Festival, they exchange gifts and enjoy the holiday spirit together.
No matter for Chinese New Year or Christmas, it’s important for families to enjoy the meal time together. Just like typical food for Christmas vary from country to country in the west, regular food for Chinese New Year are also different in each part of China. In northern part of China, dumplings, or Jiaozi, are always the norm, while people in the southern area prefer a big meal with various dishes.
Speaking of dishes for Chinese New Year, fish and spring rolls are popular in most places in China, especially fish. As fish in Chinese is “yu”, which is the same pronunciation to the other Chinese word with the meaning of abundance. Chinese people love the good meaning of fish, and they hope that they could be more prosperous the next year, in some regions, people even stick the fishtail on the wall for a good wish.
Children love festivals so much, as they could receive lots of presents. Both Chinese New Year and Christmas are never lack of presents and delicious food. Normally Christmas gifts will be piled underneath Christmas trees. Toys and food may be common presents in western countries, children believe that Santa Claus will put the presents into the socks.
In China, red envelop (Hongbao in Chinese), filled with money, will be the most common present for children, usually are given by adults. As westerners exchange Christmas gifts with each other, so do Chinese people. Traditionally New Year’s presents will be milk, alcohol, fruit baskets, it depends on different customs in each region.
We guess you may have learned something about Chinese New Year before, we sincerely hope that this article will help you have a better understanding of traditional Chinese culture. You can also contact us to know more differences and similarities between Chinese New Year and Christmas.
Chinese New Year is so different from Christmas in western countries, you may closely experience the cultural differences by visiting China during Chinese Lunar New Year. Travel with Top China Travel, you can know more local customs and experience plenty of cultural activities. Check this tour if you have interests.
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