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Chinese Spring Festival

Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, is the first day of the first lunar month. It is the most ceremonious and important traditional festival in China.

Before the festival, they need to paste spring festival couplets, door-god, and the reversed Chinese character blessing. Every family is busy cleaning house in the hope of preventing diseases and getting rid of defilements. On the New Year's Eve, every family shoots off firecrackers, plays dragon dance and lion dance, enjoys a grand dinner, and stays up late or all night. People will pay a New Year call to one another from the first day to the 15th day of the 1st lunar month.

On the New Year's Eve, regardless of long-distance travel, people far away from home will manage to come back. So the "Grand Dinner on New Year's Eve" is also called "Family Reunion Dinner". No matter the financial condition is, the family will try their best to make the dinner sumptuous and ceremonious. The hostesses will prepare the food in advance.

Traditional food prepared for the Spring Festival varies with customs in different regions. However, those with auspicious names, meanings or shapes are favored, such as dumplings, the shape of which are similar to ingots, suggesting bringing in wealth and treasure, as well as fish symbolizing amassing fortunes; "New Year Cake", suggesting better fortune in the New Year, and has the shape of gold and silver blocks.

On New Year's Day, attention should be paid to ensure not to break up anything, that sweeping the floor will drive away good luck and sweep off wealth, or else one will miss good fortunes in the whole year.

Every one sits together to make dumplings to enjoy the jollification. At twelve o'clock, every family will shoot off firecrackers to greet new days and send off old ones. In New Year's days, elders will put some money in a red pocket (yasuiqian) and give it to children as a gift.

During the first day of the Spring Festival, it is time for paying a New Year call (bai nian), during which people will be busy by saying such auspicious phrases as "May you be prosperous" and "Happy New Year", etc. in giving best wishes to one another. In the history records, the Spring Festival derives from god and ancestor worships. Nowadays, this superstitious meaning has been replaced with a symbol of unification, happiness and hope.

 

  • 1. New Year Activities

  • New Year Cleaning

On Lunar Dec 23(Little New Year), Chinese families give their houses a thorough cleaning from today until the New Year Eve. Meanwhile, on Lunar Dec 23, People will consecrate some food in kitchen to the kitchen god who will back to heaven and report human activities to Jade Emperor at today (Legend says the kitchen god will say ill to some families who don’t offer something to him). In China, the dust and dirt are traditionally associated with "old", so cleaning the houses and sweeping the houses and sweeping the dust mean to bid farewell to the past new and usher in the New Year.

  • House Decorations

On the New Year Eve, department stores, official buildings, office buildings, streets, houses will be decorated with red lanterns and red couplets. Color “red” in China is frequently used for New Year decoration is that it is associated with good fortune and happiness in Chinese culture. In North China, such as Pingyao, Datong in Shanxi, Xian in Shaanxi will paste paper-cut on windows while in South China, such as Guangzhou and Hong Kong, certain flowers and plants are used to decorate houses and promote festival atmosphere.

  • New Year Eve Feast

"A must" banquet to every family member, that almost  all the New Year's advertising has connection with this important meal: numerous Chinese made their ways out of crowded trains, coaches and arrived at their homes, then reunited with their other families members at the table, enjoying the New Year Eve Feast joyfully. Southern Chinese eat "niangao" (New Year cake made of glutinous rice flour) on this special day, because a homophone of "Niangao", means "higher and higher every year", while people in northern China eat "Jiaozi" or dumplings which are shaped like a crescent moon.

  • Fireworks on the New Year Eve Night

Children become so excited when the night comes. In front of the most houses, children with the help of their parents move out the big or some fireworks and cannot wait to light the fireworks even their parents are just shouting behind them. Later, the black sky will be lit by various colorful fire flowers with the deafening sound, as if the time backs to daytime.

  • Watching CCTV New Year Gala

At the night of New Year Eve, all the family members will gather together before TV set and turn the Channel to CCTV 1 to enjoy the annual CCTV New Year Gala which begins at 8:00 and lasts for 4 hours to the beginning of the New Year.  Mostly, the most expected part of the CCTV New Year Gala must be the witty skits played by Benshan Zhao, the king of witty skits in China.

  • Shousui-Staying up late

Shousui means to stay up late or all night on New Year's Eve. After the New Year's Feast, families sit together and watch CCTV New Year Gala to wait for the New Year's arrival.

  • Waiting for the First Bell Ringing of Chinese New Year

Chinese people, especially the young likes to go to large squares to listen to the first rising bell. As the New Year approaches they count down and celebrate together. People believe the first ringing of huge bell can drive all the bad luck and bring fortune to them. The Hanshan Temple in Suzhou in East China's Jiangsu Province, is very famous for its first ringing of the bell to herald Chinese New Year. At that time, a large number of people will gather here to pray for the New Year.

  • The First Day 

  • Lighting Firecrackers

Lighting Firecrackers used to be one of the most important customs in the Chinese New Year celebration. But the government has banned this practice in many major cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai for the risk of inducing fire. However, it is still common to see in small towns and rural areas. At the very early time in the morning, about 3:00, people will get up and light the first Firecracker at the first day to symbolize” The early bird catches the worm”, for in the ancient time, Chinese is really a industrious nation. Later, the nearby children will come to your house guided by the sound of the firecracker with a bag to hold your candies or cigarettes. That is “Bainian”(Say Happy New Year) in China.

  • “Lucky Money” to Children

"Lucky money" or”Hongbao (Red Packet)” is the money given to kids from their parents, grandparents and bosses to their employees as a New Year gift. People believe that the money in red envelope can bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. Usually, parents and grandparents first put the money in small, especially-made red envelopes and give the red envelops to their kids in the first day of the New Year.

  • Greeting to Each Other

On the first day of the New Year, everybody wears new clothes and greets relatives and friends with bows and says Xinnianhao (Happy New Year). In the first day of the New Year, it is customary for the younger generations to visit the elders, wishing them healthy and longevity. Since it is impossible to say Xinninhao to every friends and relatives, more and moe Chinese choose to text message to their friends or relatives. Statistics shows in the two days of New Year Eve and the First Day of New Year in 2011, over 5 billion short messages have been sent for greeting friends and relatives in China.

  • The Second Day

Traditionally, the second day of Chinese New Year is for married daughter to visit the house of her parents.

  • The Third to the Seventh Day

From the third day to the seventh day, people go out to visit relatives and friends.

  • The Eight Day

The eight day is the end of the official New Year Holiday and people will go to work on this day. All of government agencies and business will stop celebrating on the eighth day.

  • The Fifteenth Day

The fifteenth Day of the New Year is the Yuanxiaojie (Lantern Festival), which marks the end of the Spring Festival celebrations.

 

  • 2. Food in the Spring Festival

Since every family members will come together and eat at this time, Chinese New Year Foods become very importance. Besides, some foods are curtained over this festival for the implied meaning of New Year, such as Chinese Dumplings, Fish, Spring Rolls, Nian Gao etc.

  • Fish:

In Chinese, Fish sounds like "save more". Chinese People always like save more money at the end of year because they think if they save more, they can make more in the next year.

  • Chinese Dumplings

With a history of over 1,800 years, Chinese Dumplings are common to see in every part of China. Usually, dumplings consist of minced meat and finely-chopped vegetables wrapped into a thin and elastic piece of dough skin. The fillings could also be mince pork, diced shrimp, fish, ground chicken, beef, and vegetables etc. Meanwhile, the dumplings could be cooked by boiling, steaming, frying or baking. Moreover, Chinese Dumplings look like silver ingots. Legend says the more dumplings you eat during the New Year celebration, more money you can make in the New Year.

  • Spring Roll

Spring Roll is a kind of fried Cantonese dim sum dish of cylindrical shape. The fillings could be vegetables or meat, and the taste could be either sweet or savory. They get their name because they are traditionally eaten during the Chinese New Year Festival.

  • Nian Gao (Glutinous Rice Cake)

In Chinese, Nian Gao sounds like "getting higher year by year". In Chinese, people think, the higher you are, the more prosperous your business is. Main ingredients of Nian Gao are sticky rice, sugar, Chestnuts, Chinese date and lotus leaves.

 

  • 3. New Year Decorations:

  • Couplets

Pasted on the either side of doors, the couplets are associated with good luck and auspiciousness in Chinese culture.

  • Chinese Red Lanterns

Chinese lantern is used in festivals especially in Chinese New Year and Lantern Festival.
At that time, a red lantern with surname of the householder pasted on the surface will be hung under the eave. Usually, some of the lanterns have lamp bulb inside to light the house at night, promoting the festival atmosphere greatly. Meanwhile, it is widely common to see lanterns hung on trees in the streets, office buildings and doors of houses at the Lantern Festival, National Festival or other grand events.

  • Nianhua: New Year painting

Pasted on doors, cabinets, walls in living room, the Nianhua (New Year painting) is a decoration for New Year. The images on the paintings are auspicious legendary figures and plants, such as cranes in the mountains, children play with fish etc. It is called "New Year paintings" because they are mostly posted during the New Year and they are also a symbol of New Year’s greetings.

  • Paper Cutting

Paper-cut is the art of cutting designs in paper (black, white, or colored), then gluing them to a contrasting surface or a transparent surface. People in Northern China and central China have custom to paste red paper cutting on doors, windows. Usually, the image of an auspicious plant or animal are the theme of the New year paper cutting, such as the peach symbolizes longevity; the pomegranate, fertility; the mandarin duck, love; the pine tree, eternal youth; the peony, honor and wealth; while the magpie perched on the branch of a plum tree presages a lucky event that will soon happen etc.

  • Plants and flowers

  • Kumquat Tree

In Chinese, Kunquat Tree is called Jin Ju Tree. The word "Jin" rhymes with the Chinese word for gold, and the word "Ju" sounds like the Chinese word for good luck. So Kumquat Tree becomes the symbol of "abundance of wealth" and good luck. In South China, Hong Kong, Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces, Kumquat Tree is very popular for New Year ddecoration.

  • Peony

Known as "Flower of Richness and Good Luck", Peony is definitely a favorable New Year decoration plant.

 

  • 4. New Year Taboos

  • Here listed are the traditionally taboos associated with the New Year Festival, However, most of them have been discarded, especially among urban populations in larger cities.

4.1 On the first day of the new year, a woman may not leave her house, otherwise she will be plagued with bad luck for the entirety of the coming year;

4.2 A married daughter is forbidden to pay a visit to the house of her parents as a visit from a married daughter on this day is believed to bring bad luck to the parents, causing economic hardship for the family;

4.3 The act of sweeping on the first day is associated with sweeping wealth away; therefore, it is forbidden to sweep on the first day.

  • During the New Year Festival season (from the 1st to 15th of the Lunar New Year)

4.4 The cry of a child is believed to bring bad luck to the family, so parents do their best to keep children from crying by whatever means possible;

4.5 The act of breaking tools or other equipment during this period is associated with a loss of wealth for the coming year, therefore tradesmen and business people in general take great precaution to avoid damaging their tools and equipment

4.6 A visit to the hospital during this period is believed to bring illness to the person in question for the duration of coming year; therefore visits to the hospital are avoided except in cases of extreme emergency.

 

  • 5. New Year Activities in China Cities

 

  • New Year Activities in Beijing

Temple fair is one of the most important celebration activities during the Spring Festival. This traditional cultural event integrates religious worship and entertainment, and features almost all kinds of Chinese folk art. If you want to experience the splendid Beijing Culture, it will be the right time. You may enjoy the reenactment of the ceremony of worship to Earth and Heaven, the folk performances like dragon and lion dances, demonstration of traditional arts and crafts, and fun games. Meanwhile, you can also taste numerous Beijing snacks, count dishes and delicacies.

1.Ditan Temple Fair
Location: Ditan (Temple of the Earth) Park, East Avenue, Anding Gate, Dongcheng District.
During the Spring Festival, there will be a reenactment of worshipping ceremonies of the Qing Dynasty (1636 – 1911) to the God of Earth, as well as a wide range of folk performances and activities, such as puppet shows, traditional art exhibitions, dragon and lion dances, and acrobatic shows. Every year, about one million people visit it during the Spring Festival.

2.Longtan Temple Fair
Location: Longtan Park, 8 Longtan Rd. Chongwen District.
Similar with Ditan Park, during the Spring Festival, various interactive games and competitions invite you to join in, such as table tennis, diabolo spinning and arm wrestling. Folk performances and local snacks are also available at the fair.

3.Dongyue Temple Fair
Location: Dongyue Temple, 141 Chaowai Avenue, Chaoyang District.
Many activities in Dongyue Temple Fair are centered on the "Fu (Good Fortune)" culture. You can pray for good fortune at the altar, walk on the "Fu" road, or hang a "Fu" card to invite Fu" for the coming year. Meanwhile, colorful folk performance, artwork displays, and snacks are also available.

 

  • New Year Activities in Hong Kong

Spring Festival in Hong Kong is one of the most important events, which fused modern fun and ancient customs. A magnificent annual fireworks display and an exciting night parade are included in the celebrations

1.Fireworks Display
The fireworks display in the Victoria Harbor. On the night of the second day of the Spring Festival, beautiful fireworks will bright up the sky and welcome the New Year.

2.Night Parade
On the first evening of the New Year is the time for a carnival-like night parade. It features elaborately decorated floats accompanied by international and local marching bands and performers.

3.Shopping Spree
Hong Kong people go shopping during the Spring Festival, and the huge crowds at shopping malls and markets make it an athletic challenge. People shop not only for food, but also for decorations and cloths at this end of the season sale.

4.New Year Praying
During the Spring Festival, people will go to temples to burn incense, write wishes on cards and pray for good fortune for the New Year. The Major temples, such as Wong Tai Sin Temple and Polin Monastery receive the most visitors at this time of the year.

 

  • New Year Activities in Guangzhou

1.Flower Fairs
Known as the "Flower City" in China, Guangzhou has bustling flower fairs held annually during the Spring Festivals. The flower fairs usually start three days before the Spring Festival and reach the climax on the Eve. Meanwhile, there will be various folk performances, and local artists also demonstrate and sell their paintings and calligraphy works in the fair. The major flower fairs in Guangzhou are Xihu Flower Fair, Donghu Flower Fair, Liwan Flower Fair, and Tianhe Flower Fair.

2.Lion Dance Performances
Lion dance is always the biggest attraction to the local people, as it demonstrated in the series movie of Wong Fei Hung. The Lion movements, accompanied by firecrackers and loud music, are considered to scare away the evil spirits and to welcome the good fortune. On the first working day after the Spring Festival Holiday, many companies invite performing teams to perform the lion dance in front of the company, hoping that it will bring good fortune and prosperity to the company.

 

  • Harbin Ice Lantern Festival

Harbin is the most popular winter destinations to travelers, in terms of specific winter activities. Harbin's bone-chilling winters provide the proper climate for the winter activities. Yabuli Ski Resort is one of the best ski resorts in China. Besides, the annual Ice Lantern Festival is also very charming.

 

  • New Year Activities in Shanghai.

Shanghai celebrates the Spring Festival in many ways which reflect its mixed culture. Besides the indoor activities, Shanghai folks, especially the younger generation, join in the New Year countdowns at squares or beside the Huangpu River.

1.Live Concerts
During the Spring Festival, numerous high-quality live performances of various genres will be on in many theaters, concert halls and arts centers. You can enjoy the wonderful performances presented by world-class masters, from classical chefs-d’oeuvre to Chinese folk music, from Rock & Roll to Jazz.

2.Temple Praying and Ringing
Longhua Temple, City God Temple and Jingan Temple are the right temples to pray and ring for good luck in the coming year. The local people pay big money to ring the bell and burn ”the first incense” at the midnight.

 
Chinese New Year Dates
Year Dates Zodiac Signs
2011 February 3 Rabbit
2012 January 23 Dragon
2013 February 10 Snake
2014 January 31 Horse
2015 February 19 Sheep
2016 February 19 Monkey
2017 January 28 Rooster
2018 February 16 Dog
2019 February 5 Pig
2020 January 25 Mouse

  • 6. Chinese Lunar New Year Travel Tips for Foreign Tourists

1. If possible, we highly suggest you take airplane during the spring festival, as train is the preferred mode of transportation of the Chinese people for it is cheap and efficient(travelling by rail at any other time of the year in China is Ok). With practically all of the Chinese people on holiday- and many of them on the move – the likelihood of finding space on a train is minimal, especially during the National Holidays, Spring Festival. You will see all of the passageways in train are filled by people, and it is hard to make ways to toilet. Stay away from the largest cities with the most popular tourist destinations may be Ok, but what’s the meaning of travelling in China? So we highly suggest you take airplane among cities. Besides, better take tour agent services, for you will find it will be difficult to find right services while travelling in city.

2. We highly suggest you to arrange your itinerary as much as possible beforehand, for it will be hard to book flight tickets. You should especially book as many of your flight tickets and your hotel rooms as possible. Besides, if you wish to enjoy a loose, carefree, unplanned journey through China, then summertime is the best period for this, as the competition for accommodations and transportation is much less acute.

3. Try to exercise patience and maintain a cheerful spirit in adversity, for some level of snags at this time of year is almost unavoidable. It is inevitable to ignore some petty incidents, or too many people around you, so try to relax the Chinese way by visiting a sauna, where you can also get a relaxing massage, or attend a Tai Chi lesson or two will help you relieve stress greatly.

4. "Layered" clothing (sweaters, jackets with removable linings, windbreakers, etc.) will help you to adjust your clothing frequently, to match the frequent changes in the daily weather cycle.