Couplets and DecorationsIt is said that the custom of Chinese New Year started in when people offered sacrifice to ancestors in the last month of the lunar calendar. At that time, people prepared the sacrifice by doing thorough cleaning, having bathes and so on. Later, people began to worship different deities as well on that day. It is the time that almost all the farm works were done and people have free time. The sacrificing time changed according to the farming schedule and was not fixed until the Han Dynasty (202BC-220AD). The customs of worshipping deities and ancestors remains even though the ceremonies are not as grand as before. It is also the time that spring is coming, so people held all kinds of ceremonies to welcome it.
There are many legends about the Spring Festival. In folk culture, it is also called “guonian” (meaning “passing a year”). It is said that the “nian” (year) was a strong monster which was fierce and cruel and ate one kind of animal including human being a day. Human beings were scared about it and had to hide on the evening when the “nian” came out. Later, people found that “nian” was very scared about the red color and fireworks. So after that, people use red color and fireworks or firecrackers to drive away “nian”. As a result, the custom of using red color and setting off fireworks remains.
The preparation starts 7 days before the New Year’s Eve. According to the lunar calendar, people start to clean the house on Dec. 24, butcher on Dec. 26th and so on. People have certain things to do on each day. These activities will end Jan. 15th of the lunar calendar.
Customs and Activities
Paper Cut of Character 'Fu' Meaning
Happiness and 'Feng' Meaning Harvest
Every family does a thorough house cleaning and purchases enough food, including fish, meat, roasted nuts and seeds, all kinds of candies and fruits, etc, for the festival period. Also, new clothes must be bought, especially for children. Red scrolls with complementary poetic couplets, one line on each side of the gate, are pasted at every gate. The Chinese character 'Fu' is pasted on the center of the door and paper-cut pictures adorn windows. People will also give red envelopes to kids and elders to share the blessing.
Ten Traditions You Don't Know
New practices and activities take place in Chinese New Year experience as some old traditions fade away. The train and bus tickets can be scarcely purchased during the Spring Festival Travel Rush; newlyweds squabble over whose home to go; bachelors are so anxious and stressed that they rent a fake girlfriend home; socializing by phones are highly welcomed.
As a start for a new year, it is regarded as the omen of a year. People have many taboos during this period. Many bad words related to “death”, “broken”, “killing”, “ghost” and “illness” or “sickness” are forbidden during conversations. In some places, there are more specific details. They consider it unlucky if the barrel of rice is empty, because they think they will have nothing to eat in the next year. Taking medicine is forbidden on this day, otherwise, people will have sick for the whole year and take medicine constantly.
Giving presents is an old tradition of Spring Festival. People will prepare gifts when visiting parents, parents-in-law, relatives and friends. Towards different receivers, the gifts are supposed to be selected cautiously. In general, alcohol, cigarettes, tea and fruits are safe choices, while items like sharp object, shoes, umbrella and clock should be avoided.
See Ten Gifts to be Avoided
Dumplings, Traditional Food of Spring Festival
Learn to Make Dumplings
Food during this happy event has its characteristics, which is the representative of Chinese festival food culture. Dumplings and the reunion dinner are indispensable at this time. Cold and hot dishes are all served. Fish is always an important dish then, which expresses people’s hope of having a wealthy year.
Best Places to Go
In China, different places have their own traditions and activities to celebrate this grand festival. Beijing, Guangzhou, Xian and Pingyao are some good places to go if one intends to come during the time period. If one does not want to travel so long, but still want to enjoy the festival's atmosphere, the local Chinatown is the best place.