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The Spring Festival in China

The Spring Festival is the most important traditional festival of the Chinese nation.It falls on the first day of the first month by the Chinese lunar calendar or farming calendar - in late January or mid February. It has been celebrated for some 4,000 years. It was called the New Year's Day in ancient times, meaning the beginning of a new year. In 2012, the Chinese Spring Festival or Chinese New Year falls on January 23rd.Usually holiday is from 22nd to 28th January (7 days).

*Chinese Knot


Spring Festival is regarded as the most important traditional festival in China. Chinese people do lots of things to celebrate it.

Before the Spring Festival every year, people are very active to do shopping to buy necessities for the lunar New Year, make new clothes, thoroughly clean houses, paste New Year pictures and paper scrolls bearing auspicious antithetical couplet in the house, offer sacrifices to Kitchen God, enjoy a family reunion, stay up all night to "see the year out," have a sumptuous dinner on the Spring Festival Eve, eat laba porridge and spring pancakes, enjoying themselves to their hearts妤? content.

In addition, people do some Chinese Knots to decorate the houses. Chinese Knots are the propitious things which can bring good luck. They are also the typical local arts of China. Chinese people have known how to tie knots using cords ever since they began learned how to attach animal pelts to their bodies to keep warm thousands of years ago. As civilization advanced, Chinese people used knots for more than just fastening and wrapping. The knots are pulled tightly together and are sturdy enough to be used for binding or wrapping, making them very practical. Furthermore, the complicated structure of the Chinese knot allows all kinds of variations and enhances its decorative value.

Another interesting custom is that people send the red packets each other to express best wishes. The cash wrapped up in red paper forms a red packet which symbolizes fortune and wealth in the coming year.

All these customary activities during the Spring Festival have been inherited and evolved from various kinds of ancient ceremonies for praying for good fortune over the past thousands of years, and each of them has special historical significance.

*Spring Festival Eve Dinner
Spring Festival Eve dinner, a reunion dinner, also called "tuanyuan fan" in Chinese, is an extremely important dinner. "tuanyuan" means "getting together". Wherever they are, people will try their best to go home just for this "tuanyuan fan". This reunion dinner is held on Spring Festival Eve where members of the family, near and far, get together for celebration.

This custom is also called "surrounding the hearth," from the custom in earlier times of eating dinner around the family hearth. The dinner begins only after all of the family members are present at the table. A table setting is placed for those unable to come home for dinner on this day to symbolize their presence though far away. Spring Festival Eve dinner is best eaten slowly, savoring the flavor of each dish. The dishes are always rich and delicious. There is a dish of fish is unnecessary. Eating fish has a special meaning. In Chinese it means "niannianyouyu". Because fish in Chinese means "yu", eating "yu" symbolize "Surplus Year after Year".

With the changes of society and the improvement of the level of people妤规悞 life, there is a new form of the Spring Festival Eve dinner. Once the reunion dinner was held at family, now more and more people have this special dinner at restaurant. It is reported that around 2 million people in Shanghai enjoy their Spring Festival Eve dinners in restaurants every year since 2000.

Having the Spring Festival Eve dinner surrounding the table is the eternal custom during Spring Festival.

*Spring Festival Couplets

During the Spring Festival, all the doors are pasted with Spring Festival couplets, highlighting Chinese calligraphy with black characters on red paper.

The Spring Couplet is composed of two antithetical sentences on both sides of the door and a horizontal scroll bearing an inscription, usually an auspicious phrase, above the gate. The sentence pasting on the right side of the door is called the first line of the couplet and the one on the left the second line. On the eve of the Spring Festival, every household will paste on doors a spring couplet written on red paper to give a happy and prosperous atmosphere of the Festival.

At the beginning, the Spring Festival couplets were called "taofu"(peachwood charms against evil) which were hung on the gate on the lunar New Year妤规悞 Eve to ward off evils and ghosts. Later the peachwood charms were replaced by red paper, on which auspicious words written.

There is a legend about it. During the reign of Emperor Taizu Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398) of the Ming Dynasty, "taofu" was formally replaced by Spring Festival couplets, and Emperor Taizu of the Ming wrote Spring Festival couplets in person. Since then, the custom of sticking on couplets on doors before the lunar New Year has been handed down generation by generation.

* Setting off Firecracker during the Spring Festival


Setting off firecracker during the Spring Festival, especially on lunar New Year妤规悞 Eve, is an important custom. Why it is a necessary custom?

Spring Festival also called "Guo Nian". The word "Guo" in Chinese means "pass-over" and "observe". The word "Nian" has a special meaning, in the ancient time; it was originally the name of a monster beast that started to prey on people the night before the beginning of a new year. There is a legend about "Nian".

"Nian", the monster with antennae, was very rude and lived at the bottom of the sea. It went ashore on lunar New Year妤规悞 Eve to devour people and animals. People were so afraid of it that they fled to the mountains on every lunar New Year妤规悞 Eve.

On one lunar New Year妤规悞 Eve, an old man with long whiskers came into the village. He was begging for some food and a place to stay overnight. At that time, the villagers were in a hurry fleeing to the mountains to avoid being hurt by "Nian". The villagers were busy running for their lives, so no one noticed the old man except an old lady. "Climb the mountain, or 妤规彉ian妤?will devour you." She said to the old man. The old man smiled, but he didn妤规悤 say any word. "Be quick, in less than several hours 妤规彉ian妤?will come." The old lady added. Still, the old man smiled. Then, he said, " If you let me stay at your home for a night, I assure you of driving 妤规彉ian妤?out." "But闂呭棝顣? At last, the old lady had no choice but to flee to the mountains, leaving the old man in her house.

At midnight, "Nian" did come. It found there was something different in one house and so walked around the house to see whether there was anything unusual. There was a piece of Chinese red paper on the door, and a flame indoors. Seeing that, "Nian" trembled all over and cried in a strange voice. It glared at the house, and then pounced on the house. As it was approaching the house, suddenly some loud sound of firecrackers came out of the house. Again "Nian" trembled, and it had no courage to approach any more. At that time, the door opened. Indoors the old man who begged the old lady for her house to stay overnight smiled at "Nian". He was wearing a Chinese red coat. On seeing that, "Nian" ran away. In fact, "Nian" was afraid of red, flame and firecracker.

From then on, people living in the village knew how to drive "Nian" off. It is the reason why we Chinese people like wearing red clothes and setting off firecracker on lunar New Year妤规悞 Eve. It is an age-long custom.

*Dragon and Lion Dance

During the Spring Festival, various kinds of temple fairs are held to celebrate this special festival. While people do dragon and lion dances, perform yangge dance, and appreciate decorate lanterns to ring out the old and ring in the new, see poverty off and welcome wealth, ward off diseases and evils and pray for a good harvest and good luck in the coming year.

People do dragon and lion dances to hold a ceremonious meeting. It is a good way to celebrate the Spring Festival, expressing their happiness in the New Year. Doing the Dragon and Lion Dances are also Chinese folk art as well as a skill.

*Spring Festival Food

The food and snacks for the Spring Festival contain special auspicious significance and are different from place to place.

niangao(New Year cake), which symbolizes having good luck in everything and getting promotion year by year, is a must for every Chinese family on the lunar New Year. However, in the north of China, the local people make gaotuo(cooked wheaten food) and glutinous millet cakes for the festival; in the south of China, shuimo niangao(New Year cake made from finely ground glutinous rice flour); in southwest China, glutinous rice cakes; and in Taiwan, red bean cakes.

Jiaozi(dumplings with meat and vegetable stuffing) is traditional food for the people in north China. In the shape of shoe-shape gold ingot, Jiaozi has an auspicious meaning of "bringing in money and treasure". On New Year妤规悞 Eve, the whole family will sit together to make Jiaozi and celebrate the Spring Festival. The tradition of having Jiaozi is very important during the Spring Festival.