chinese new year celebration EACH DAY MATTERS

Celebrating the Spring Festival is more than about having a dinner and exchanging gifts on New Year' s Eve. Actually, it' s an event that could extend to one or two weeks, and each day matters.

Chinese New Year is an important Chinese festival celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. It is also known as the Spring Festival, the literal translation of the modern Chinese name. Celebrations traditionally run from the evening preceding the first day, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first calendar month. The first day of the New Year falls on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February.

The Spring Festival holiday season usually starts from the prelude "Xiaonian" , which means "Preliminary Eve" in English. Xiaonian would fall on seven days to the lunar New Year' s Eve in north China, and six days ahead of the Eve in the south.

On Xiaonian, Chinese people tend to start festival shopping, and more importantly, give their home a thorough cleaning to sweep away the bad luck.

Homes are often decorated with paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases and couplets. Purchasing new clothing and shoes also symbolize a new start. Any hair cuts need to be completed before the New Year, as cutting hair on New Year is considered bad luck due to the homonymic nature of the word "hair" (fa) and the word for "prosperity". Businesses are expected to pay off all the debts outstanding for the year before the new year eve, extending to debts of gratitude. Thus it is a common practice to send gifts and rice to close business associates, and extended family members.

Five days to the Eve, Chinese people make Tofu. It is said that the Jade Emperor, or Heavenly Grandfather, usually come to the mundane world to inspect people' s life on the day, and people eat Tofu to show their thriftiness.

Four days to the Eve, Chinese people slaughter the pig and stew the pork to prepare for the year-end feast. Three days to the Eve, Chinese people kill the chicken in hope for luckiness, for the Chinese word for chicken pronounces in the same way with the Chinese word for luckiness.

Two days to the Eve, dough is leavened, steamed bread is made and red spring festival couplets are pasted on gateposts.

One day to the Eve, it' s time for people to offer sacrifices to their ancestors. Some people do not give a Buddhist prayer due to the influence of Christianity, with a Christian prayer offered instead.

Then the "big day" , the lunar New Year's Eve comes. On the eve of saying goodbye to the old year and embracing for the new year, Chinese families usually sit around a table making jiaozi, or Chinese dumplings, while staying up late until the coming of the new year.

On the first day of New Year, the young usually give new year' s greetings to the elderly, and the elderly give the young the "lucky money" wrapped in red envelops, meaning avoiding the evils.

The second day is important for married women, for on this day they need to go back to their parents' home with their husbands and bring gifts to parents and the kids of relatives.

The fifth day of New Year is the birthday of the God of Wealth. People usually get prepared to invite the God of Wealth to home so as to pray for a wealthy new year.

Days for dispersing poverty, opening business and human will pass one by one before the arrival of the 12th day of New Year when people start to prepare for the significant Lantern Festival.

The ninth day of the New Year is a day for Chinese to offer prayers to the Jade Emperor of Heaven. The ninth day is traditionally the birthday of the Jade Emperor.

The 13th day is time for people go to the market and select lanterns, which are happy moments especially for children.

This day is dedicated to the General Guan Yu, also known as the Chinese God of War. Guan Yu was born in the Han dynasty and is considered the greatest general in Chinese history. He represents loyalty, strength, truth, and justice. According to history, he was tricked by the enemy and was beheaded.

Almost every organization and business in China will pray to Guan Yu on this day. Before his life ended, Guan Yu had won over one hundred battles and that is a goal that all businesses in China want to accomplish. In a way, people look at him as the God of Wealth or the God of Success.

Then comes the 15th day of New Year, the Lantern Festival. The day is the first day of full moon in the new year, and people usually take kids to the street to experience the great scene of lit lanterns on the porch of each house.

From this day on, the Chinese New Year holiday is officially concluded.

texts: Xinhua and Metropolitan Nektarios of Hong Kong and South East Asia

photos: Xinhua/New China

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Metropolitan Nektarios of Hong Kong and South East Asia
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Xinhua/New China

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