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Chinese Spring Festival

chinese new year fire work show

Time & Duration of Spring Festival

According to the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, Chinese Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year, begins with the New Moon and ends on the Full Moon, which is from the first day to the 15th day of the first month in a new year. The last day (the 15th day of the first lunar month) of the New Year is known as the Lantern Festival.The actual date is not a fix date, instead it is changed according to the Chinese lunar calendar every year,learn more about the C hinese new year date, please transfer to the page...

Origin of Spring Festival

The origin of the Spring Festival now is too old to be traced. It is widely believed that the word ‘Nian'(in Chinese means 'year'), was first the name of a monster beast that started to prey on human being at the night before the beginning of a new year. It had a very big mouth that would swallow many people with one bite. People were very scared. One day, an old man came to their rescue, offering to subdue ‘Nian'. He said to ‘Nian' that ‘I hear that you are quite capable, but can you swallow other beasts on earth instead of people who are by no means of your worthy opponents?' Hence, ‘Nian' did swallow many of the beasts of prey on earth that also harassed people and their domestic animals from time to time. After that, the old man who turned out to be an immoral fairy disappeared riding the beast ‘Nian'. Now that ‘Nian' had gone and other beasts of prey are scared off into the forests, people began to enjoy their life in peace and happiness. Before the old man left, he had told people to put up red paper decorations on their windows and doors at each year's end to scare away ‘Nian' in case it sneaked back again, because red is the color that the beast feared most.

From then on, the tradition of observing the conquest of ‘Nian' is carried on from generation to generation. The term ‘Guo Nian', which may mean ‘Survive the Nian' becomes today's ‘Celebrate the New Year', as the word ‘Guo' in Chinese having both the meaning of ‘pass-over' and ‘observe'. The custom of putting up red paper and firing firecrackers to scare away 'Nian' had been well preserved
chinese spring festival dragon show

Two Features of Spring Festival

Equal to Christmas of the West in significance, the Spring Festival is the most important holiday in China. Two features distinguish it from the other festivals. One is seeing off the old year and greeting the new. The other is family reunion.

Two weeks before the festival the whole country is permeated with a holiday atmosphere. On the 8th day of the twelfth lunar month, many families will make the Laba Congee, a kind of congee made from more than eight treasures, including the glutinous rice, lotus seed, beans, gingko, millet and so on. Shops and streets are beautifully decorated and every household is busy at shopping and preparing for the festival. In the past, all families would make a throughout house cleaning, settling accounts and clearing off debts, by which to pass the year.

Customs of Spring Festival

Paste couplets(Chinese: 贴春联): it’s a kind of literature. Chinese people like to write some dual and concise words on red paper to express their new year’s wishes. On the arrival of New Year, every family will paste couplets.
Paste couplet
Paste couplets

Family reunion dinner(Chinese: 团圆饭): people travelling or residing in a place far away from home will back to their home to get together with their families.

Stay up late on New Year’s Eve(Chinese: 守岁): it’s a kind of way for Chinese people to welcome New Year’s arrival. Staying up late on New Year’s Eve is endowed with auspicious meaning by people. The old do it for cherishing their past time, the young do it for their parents’ longevity.

Hand out red packets(Chinese: 发红包): elders will put some money into red packets, and then hand out to the younger generation during spring festival. In recent years, electric red packets are popular among younger generation.
Set off firecrackers: Chinese people think the loud sound of the firecrackers can drive away devils, and the fire of the firecrackers can make their life thriving in the coming year.
Red packets 
Red packets

Celebration Activities on Chinese New Year’s Eve

After dinner, people sit together before the TV to watch the New Year's program and chat with each other. About ten minutes before the ringing of the New Year's bell, people let out the fireworks to welcome back the Kitchen God from the Heaven, who is in charge of the fortune and misfortune of the household he dwells.

  • A new beginning on New Year’s Day
Some of the customs based on superstitions are quite interesting. For example, on New Year's Day, people will not sweep the floor, do washing or dump their garbage out of the house, lest these would do away with their fortune. On the Lunar New Year's Eve, people like to stick the Chinese character ‘Happiness' upside down on doors or walls, because ‘upside down' in Chinese is a homophone of ‘coming' or ‘arriving'.
  • Pasting couplets on the doors
The custom of pasting couplets on the doors has a long history. In the ancient times, people hung short branches of peach tree on the doors or at the front gates for the purpose of driving away the evil things. Later they became peach wood boards with some Chinese characters written on them. With the invention of paper, on each of which was written a verse line to welcome the New Year to express wishes for happiness and good fortune. During the long time development, spring couplets have become a special form of literature with their own characteristic.
  • A family Reunion Dinner
After putting up couplets and pictures in the doors on the Lunar New Year's Eve, the last day of the twelfth moon in the Chinese lunar calendar , each family gathers for a sumptuous meal called ‘family reunion dinner'. People will enjoy the food and drink in abundance and Jiaozi.

The meal is more luxurious than usual. Dishes such as chicken, fish and bean curd is necessary, for in Chinese, their pronunciations sounds like ‘Ji', ‘Yu', and ‘Doufu', with the meanings of auspicious, abundant and rich. Sons and daughters working away from home come back to join their parents.
Family reunion dinner
Family reunion dinner

What to Do During New Year Period

On the first three days of the festival, people will visit their close relatives and best friends, exchanging greetings and presents, which is known as the ‘New Year's Visit'. The young generation are given the red envelop from their elder generation. The Spring Festival carnivals take place during this period. There are performances of dragon dancing, lion dancing and recreational parades in the street by some troupes.
The fifth day is known as ‘Po Woo'. On this day people stay home to welcome the God of Wealth. No one visits relatives and friends because it will bring both parts bad luck. From the sixth day to the tenth day, people either go out the visit their relatives or friends or go to the temples to pray for good fortune and health in the coming year. In addition, the seventh day is the day for farmers to display their agricultural products. The day also considered as the birthday of human beings. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity. As to the ninth day, people present the offering to the Jade Emperor, the God of the Heaven in Chinese Legend. When it comes to the tenth day, relatives and friends should be invited home to have dinner.
After such a long time's sumptuous feast, on the 13th day people are supposed to have something simple and light to cleanse their body system to keep health.

Modern Chinese New Year Activities

With the popularity of smart phone and other mobile devices, more and more people show interest in greeting by smart phone, which is very popular among younger generation.

• Greet by smart phone
Sending congratulations through smart phone gradually becomes the most popular way to greet people during Chinese New Year. Congratulations with text and graphics by smart phone is vivid and convenient. Even the friend is far away from you, he/she still can receive congratulations immediately. Chinese people prefer wechat or QQ, while western people prefer FaceBook or WhatsApp. Besides, red packet in wechat makes Chinese people crazy. No matter how much money they can receive from wechat friend, people still pretty enjoy it and never tire of it.

• Lover rental
Different from western culture, elders will still pay much attention to their children’s life even they have been an adult. When single youngsters who have exceeded the lawful marriage age, the elder generation will press them to look for a marriage partner quickly during Spring Festival, this creates new business—fake boy/girl friend rental.

Special Food for Spring Festival

Nian’gao(年糕): a kind of Chinese cake, made by sticky rice. It’s an indispensible food in Chinese New Year for the meaning of thriving in the New Year.

Jiaozi(饺子): a kind of dumplings in China. There are many kinds of jiaozi with different ingredients. Chinese people eat Jiaozi on New Year’s Eve, people who eats the Jiaozi with coin or some special ingredient will be the luckiest.
Family making dumpling together
Family making dumpling together

Tangyuan(汤圆): a kind of dumplings in China. Tangyuan with sesame inside is the most common filling. There is a slight difference between northern China and southern China. The filling is salty in northern China, while that is sweet in southern China.

Zongzi(粽子): a kind of dumplings in China. It’s made of sticky rice filled with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. Meat is the main filling in southern China, while bean is main filling in northern China.
Activities in Different Places

Regarding to different places around the nation, people will have different activities to celebrate the festival. During the festival, there are many operas and other performances on the stages.
In northern China, troupes will perform ‘Cai Gaoqiao', means walking on stilts, which requires very high skills and good sense of balance. The performers tie two wooden stilts to their feet, which makes them taller than others. Then they will do some funny movements or folk dances. People can see this kind of performance in Beijing, Tianjin as well as Liaoning and Shandong Provinces, etc.
In Shaanxi Province, people will have chance to enjoy the live ‘Yangge' performance. The performance is the combination of music, dance and feats including the skill of handkerchiefs and the movements of feet. It is the most popular perform art that originated from rice planting and farming in north China countryside. By enjoy the Yangge together with the sound of firecrackers and drums, people will have the exact and direct feeling of how lively the atmosphere in the northern villages. In the small village in northern Shaanxi Province named Ansai, nearly every one can play Waist Drum that originated in the ancient rituals to ancestor worship. The skill now has become a famous celebration performance art. The performers some times more than 100, jump and dance in unison to the tempo of drums. It gives people an unforgivable expression of magnificence and strong power, especially against the background of rolling mountain ranges and deep valleys.
Yangge performance
Yangge performance

In the capital city Beijing, the most Spring-Festival activity is Temple Fair which held in different ancient temples. Temple fair in Beijing has a time-honored history. Traditionally, there are various kinds of performances in temple. Besides, one can find traditional arts and handicrafts as well as countless tasty local smacks from craftsmen and vendors along the streets. Most temple fairs are features by their dragon and lion dancing as well as folk performances. For foreign visitors, it is a rare opportunity to experience Chinese colorful culture and tradition.
In Guangzhou City in southern China, the locals will have the Lion Dance that is the most attractive activities among the numerous celebrations. Lion is regarded as a mascot by Chinese, so the dance of Lion is believed to bring good luck and drive away the evil spirits. The performers will move imitating a lion to the beats of drums and gongs. Besides the Lion Dance, the Flower Fair is also very popular in the city. When the Spring Festival approaches, the florists from suburbs will set up the temporary shacks to sell their fresh and fragrant flowers. Then the street will be bustled with people who intend to buy flowers preparing for the Spring Festival. Traditionally, people like to buy a potted tree with lovely small tangerines hanging in it. In Cantonese, tangerine sounds like ‘Ji', which means good luck and wealth. The flower fair usually starts three days before the Spring Festival. For locals, there could be no Spring Festival if there is no flower fair. The fair has a history more than 5, 00 years in the city. It might be another reason why Guangzhou is famed as the ‘City of Flower '.
Guilin City in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is another place to enjoy the wonderful Lion Dance in different way. The lion dance is one of the most spectacular events in the city in the festive seasons. The lion is played by two actors, one of them play the head part to liven up the lion by moving the lion's eyes, mouth and ears: and another one is in charge of the body part. For the lion dance combine the art with Kung Fu, so many players have been trained. The climax of the dance is known as ‘Picking the Green' or ‘Cai Qing' in Chinese. The Green refers to vegetable leaves tied with a red envelope containing money, which is hung high above the door of the house or business. The dramatic moment of the lion picking will be very impressive.
Dragon dance performance
Dragon Dance Performance
Dragon Dance is another traditional festive performance that can not be missed. Dragon is regarded as the symbol of deity, emperor and imperial power. In the ancient times, people believed that dragon can make clouds and rain, so once in dry season, they played dragon dance to ask for rain and agreeable weather. In their minds, this creature is friendly and helpful, who inhabits in the body of water. When play the dragon dance, people prefer the longer dragon, the longer the better. In some communities, the dragons are so long that require twenty to thirty people to play it. Generally, the Dragon Dance is played by many people with specially made stage props in their hands. One person uses a pearl-like thing to lead the dragon. The dragon will follow it rising or falling, slowly or rapidly. The scene likes that the dragon sometimes flies up to the sky, and sometimes hiding under the ocean and breaking waves. The fire dragon is made with candles put into each section of the dragon body. When performed at night, firecrackers are set off at the time. The visitors see an excellent scene of the fire dragon shuttling back and forth among fireworks. The performance can be seen in many cities in China.

Day-by-Day Guide to Spring Festival

New Year's Eve Pasting couplets on the doors; have reunion dinner;  stay up late or all night to welcome the new year
The first day
Welcome the gods of the heavens and earth; Visit families (especially those older than yourself) and friends to pass on your good wishes for the New Year.
On the second day
Chinese people pray to their ancestors as well as to all the gods.
The third and fourth days
Married Women will come back to their parents' home with the husband and children to pay Spring Festival visits and extend New Year greetings
The fifth day
Known as ‘Po Woo'. On the day people stay home to welcome the God of Wealth. No one visits relatives and friends on this day because it will bring both parts bad luck.
On the sixth to the 10th day
Visit relatives and friends freely. People also go to temples to pray for good fortune and health in the coming year. In addition, the seventh day of the New Year is the day for farmers to display their produce. The seventh day is also considered as the birthday of human beings. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity and fish for affluence.
The ninth day
Present the offerings to the Jade Emperor, the God of the Heaven in Chinese legend.
From the 10th to 12th
Friends and relatives should be invited home to have dinner. After such a sumptuous feast, on the 13th day people are supposed to have simple meals to cleanse the system.
On the 15th day
People celebrate the Lantern Festival by eating Sweet Dumplings, making and displaying lanterns.

What Should You Pay attention to While Traveling in Spring Festival in China? 

• Transportation: Two weeks before Spring Festival, people who are out of home for work start to come back to hometown from other cities by flight, train or bus to spend the festival with their festival. And usualy within two weeks after the festival, people will travel back to the cities in which they work. If you plan to visit China during Chinese New Year, in order to avoid tickets being sold out, you’d better book it in advance. Besides, the air fares will be more expensive than usual. 

• Restaurant: some restaurateurs may be back to their hometown to spend New Year time with their families, so some restaurants may close business for the time of Chinese New Year. 

• Hotel: in some tourist cities, hotel price may higher than usual.