In a few months, the Chinese spring festival is coming. The Spring Festival is the most important festival for the Chinese people. And all family members get together, just like Christmas in the West. All people living far away go back to home. It is becoming the busiest time for transportation systems for about half a month before and after the Spring Festival. Airports, railway stations and long-distance bus stations are crowded with home returnees.
There are many customs accompanying the Spring Festival. Some are still following by people today, but others have disappeared. In the northern part of China, many families make delicious Laba porridge with glutinous rice, millet, seeds of Job’s tears, jujube berries, lotus seeds, beans, longan and gingko. And in southern part of China, many families make Tang Yuan which means family reunion.
The 23rd day of the 12th lunar month is called Preliminary Eve. At this time, people offer sacrifice to the kitchen god. Now however, most families make delicious food to enjoy themselves. After the Preliminary Eve, people begin preparing for the coming New Year. This is called “Seeing the New Year in”.
Before the New Year comes, the people completely clean the indoors and outdoors of their homes as well as their clothes, bedclothes and all their utensils. Then people begin decorating their clean rooms featuring an atmosphere of rejoicing and festivity. All the door panels will be pasted with Spring Festival couplets, highlighting Chinese calligraphy with black characters on red paper. The content varies from house owners’ wishes for a bright future to good luck for the New Year. Also, pictures of the god of doors and wealth will be posted on front doors to ward off evil spirits and welcome peace and abundance.
The Chinese character “福fú” (meaning blessing or happiness) is a must. The character put on paper can be pasted normally or upside down, for in Chinese the “reversed fu” is homophonic with “fu comes”, both being pronounced as “福到了fú dào le.” What’s more, two big red lanterns can be raised on both sides of the front door. Red paper-cuttings can be seen on window glass and brightly colored New Year paintings with auspicious meanings may be put on the wall. People attach great importance to Spring Festival Eve. At that time, all family members eat dinner together. The meal is more luxurious than usual. Dishes such as chicken, fish and bean curd cannot be excluded, for in Chinese, their pronunciations, respectively “鸡jī”, “鱼yú” and “豆腐dòu fǔ” mean auspiciousness, abundance and richness.
Waking up on New Year, everybody dresses up. First they extend greetings to their parents. Then each child will get money as a New Year gift, wrapped up in red paper. People in northern China will eat 饺子jiǎo zi, or dumplings, for breakfast, as they think “饺子jiǎo zi” in sound means “bidding farewell to the old and ushering in the new”. Also, the shape of the dumpling is like gold ingot from ancient China. So people eat them and wish for money and treasure.
The lively atmosphere not only fills every household, but permeates to streets and lanes. A series of activities such as lion dancing, dragon lantern dancing, lantern festivals and temple fairs will be held for days. The Spring Festival then comes to an end when the Lantern Festival is finished.