New Year/Spring Festival – January/February
There are many special celebration days in China and because each of these days has a cultural and customary difference from others, we usually name them as 节(jié)日(rì)(Festival).
If we start from the beginning of a year, there comes 春(chūn)节(jié)( Chinese New Year/Spring Festival), 元(yuán)宵(xiāo)节(jié)（Lantern Festival），清(qīng)明(míng)节(jié)（Qing Ming Festival）, 端(duān)午(wǔ)节(jié)（Dragon Boat Festival），七(qī)夕(xī)节(jié)（Qi Xi Festival），中(zhōng)秋(qiū)节(jié)（Mid-autumn Festival），重(chóng)阳(yáng)节(jié)（Double Ninth Festival），冬(dōng)至(zhì)（Winter Solstice），腊(là)八(bā)节(jié)（Laba Festival）.
Chinese New Year, also named as Spring Festival, is celebrated in Spring, specifically during 1st – 15th of the first lunar month. Chinese New Year is the biggest and longest Festival we celebrate. It is similar to Christmas here. There are many folklore stories trying to tell kids a more funny origin of this festival. A popular one from our nannies tells of a monster, who lives in a mountain called 年(nián), which is close to villages.
Every year when it comes to the New Year eve, NIAN will go to villages stealing, messing and scaring people. People are very scared every time New Year Eve comes until one day there is very wise elder who finds that NIAN is afraid of the red color and the voice from firecracker. After that people start to decorate their houses and light firecrackers before New Year Day to scare NIAN away. As time has gone by, decorating the house with red and light firecrackers has become a traditional activity when we celebrate New Year.
We also give these two things new names as ‘贴春联’, ‘放鞭炮’.
Nowadays, people celebrate Chinese New Year also for some very practical reasons. People in China usually work very hard. Work takes lots of their time and some workplaces are far away from their own hometown and families. So New Year becomes a time for people going back home and spending some time with families. Thinking about that, the Chinese government made New Year a public holiday for all people in the country to take a comparatively long holiday (usually 15 days) and during this time, many people can go back to home but still with basic salaries and have their job when they come back from 15 days off.
When people in China go back with their families, usually they will prepare the best and most food on New Year’s Eve to have a feast to treat themselves for them working hard through the whole year and celebrate the family reunion. On the New Year’s Eve dinner table are usually chicken, duck, fish and pork, the four basic foods for this festival. Dumplings are also a typical New Year food for people who live in north area in China.
Apart from food, Spring Gala is also a necessary entertainment activity on New Year’s Eve. Spring Gala is a television live show made by Chinese central television station. It usually lasts for more than 4 hours starting from 8pm and almost 14 billion in this country will watch it. Therefore, Spring Gala become a very special thing that Chinese people will enjoy it together and share some common memory on it.
When I was a little child, on New Year’s Eve, my grandma would ask me to wash myself thoroughly because all children will put on their best new clothes on the New Year Day. After putting on new clothes, children then go and see their parents or grandparents to send a very early New Year greeting like Happy New Year or Good Luck in the New Year, then parents or grandparents will give children a red envelope which they already prepared with money in them. Children can make their own decisions in how to use the money. If the money is a very big amount, children will ask their parents to save it for them or they can have their own bank saving. Therefore, they will learn how to manage their money from a very young age.
Information and photos courtesy of Miss Liu from the Confucius Institute