Chinese New Year - The Spring Festival

The Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival as it is called is the most popular celebration in China. It is the time when family and friends get together to enjoy good food. This article will give you a peek into the traditions and celebrations undertaken as a part of the Chinese Spring Festival.
| Friday, December 12, 2008
The Chinese New Year also called as the Chinese Spring Festival is as important to the Chinese people as Christmas is to those living in the western countries. Unlike other places where New Year celebrations tend to be boisterous, Chinese New Year is a solemn celebration. As per the Chinese New Year traditions the entire family gathers together and religious rites are performed at the family altar.  The history of the Chinese New Year can be traced to the Shang Dynasty and it was based on the sacrifice of the people to the gods and the ancestors at the end of a year and the beginning of the New Year.

The dates for this celebration are based on the lunar calendar and so this celebration falls any time between late January and early February. So this festival actually starts on the eve of New Year Day as per the lunar calendar. It ends on the fifth day in the first month according to the lunar calendar. But in many areas of the country the 15th day of the first month is considered to be the ending of the Spring Festival and this is called as the Lantern Festival. The preparations for this New Year celebration start during the last moon. The 23rd day in the 12th lunar month is termed as the Preliminary Eve. On this occasion people make sacrifice and offer it for the kitchen god. These days however it entails preparation of delicious food items that the family later on eats together. The Chinese people have seven days off for this Chinese lunar New Year. In these days thorough cleaning of the house is undertaken and all debts are repaid. People buy new clothes and decoration of houses is undertaken as per the Chinese New Year traditions. People also burn incense within the house and go to temples so that they can pray for the good health of their friends and families. One of the Chinese New Year traditions includes the preparation of the "laba porridge" which is a delicious item made with glutinous rice, jujube berries, beans and other items.

"Guo Nian" which means passing of year is the term commonly used for the spring festival celebrations. People also burst fire crackers at the time of midnight and this is used to drive away all evil spirits and to welcome the New Year.  The families get together for a sumptuous feast where steamed dumplings also known as "Jiaozi" are served. Jiaozi is rather famous in the north while in the southern region a form of rice pudding is served. This rice pudding is called as "Nian Gao" and is sweet. Other delicious food items specially prepared for this feast include fish, beans and chicken.

Gift giving is an integral part of the Chinese New Year celebrations and so new clothes and other gift items are purchased for family and friends. To welcome the New Year most houses decorate door panels with special spring festival couplets and these are writings in Chinese calligraphy. The content includes wishes for a bright future and good luck. These Chinese New Year symbols are writings in black on red paper and look rather attractive. Pictures of god of wealth are also posted on the front doors of most houses to ward off evil spirits. "Fu" is an important Chinese character and is written on papers that are pasted everywhere. It is pronounced as "Fudaole" and means blessings or happiness. Big red lanterns are also put on the two sides on most front doors. Red which is an auspicious color can be seen everywhere. Likewise paintings and various Chinese New Year crafts with auspicious meanings are displayed everywhere. The greeting used for the Chinese New Year includes "Gong Xi Fa Cai" which roughly means "Congratulations and wishing you prosperity". Another popular greeting is "Xin Nian Kuai Le" which means "Happy New Year".

Chinese New year dragon dance is a popular part of Chinese New Year traditions. On the New Year day the entire family gathers together and red packets are gifted to the unmarried members within the family. The second day in the New Year is reserved for visiting the wife’s family. The seventh day of the New Year is traditionally considered to be everybody’s birthday or a day when everybody grows older by a year. On this day "Yusheng" which is a tossed fish salad is prepared and eaten. The entire family gets together to toss this colorful salad and people make wishes for wealth and prosperity for everyone in the year. Spring Festival is extremely important and in recent times many Spring Festival parties are broadcast live on the China Central Television Station (CCTV).