Chinese New Year Activities
The Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, is the most important traditional festival in China, celebrated for fifteen days. There are many customs relating to food, greetings, and gifts.
Chinese New Year's Eve
On the days before the New Year, Chinese families give their houses a thorough cleaning. Traditionally, this is done on New Year's Eve.
Dust and dirt are associated with "old" in Chinese culture, so cleaning the house and sweeping the dust represent bidding farewell to the past and ushering in the New Year.
The New Year's Eve Feast is a "must" banquet with all the family members getting together. People from north and south have different sayings about the food they eat on this special day.
Southern Chinese eat "niangao" (a cake made of glutinous rice flour) on this special day, because "Niangao" sounds like "higher and higher every year".
In northern China, a traditional dish for the feast is "jiaozi", dumplings, which are shaped like a crescent moon.
Read more on Chinese New Year Food.
Watching the CCTV New Year Gala
The annual CCTV New Year Gala begins at 8pm and lasts for 4 hours, to the beginning of the New Year.
Shousui - Staying up late
Shousui means to stay up late or all night on New Year's Eve. After the New Year's Feast, families sit together and typically watch CCTV New Year Gala, waiting for the New Year to arrive.
The First Bell Ringing of Chinese New Year
The first ringing bell is a symbol of Chinese New Year. Chinese people like to go to large squares where there are huge bells set up on New Year's Eve. As the midnight approaches they count down and celebrate together.
People believe that the ringing of large bell can drive all the bad luck away, and bring good fortune to them. In recent years, some people have begun to go to mountain temples to wait for the first ringing of a bell.
Hanshan Temple in Suzhou in East China's Jiangsu Province is very famous for its first ringing of the bell to herald Chinese New Year. The custom is even beginning to be adopted by the ex-pat community there.
Days before the New Year festival, department stores, official buildings, office buildings, and streets are decorated with red lanterns and red couplets.
Private houses are usually decorated on New Year's Eve. People paste red couplets and door gods on doors, and hang red lanterns in their houses.
The reason why red color is frequently used for New Year decorations is that it is associated with good fortune and happiness in Chinese culture.
In North China, it is customary to paste paper-cuts on windows, while in South China, e.g. Guangzhou and Hong Kong, certain flowers and plants are used.
Read more on Chinese New Year decorations.
The First Day
Lighting firecrackers used to be one of the most important customs in the Chinese New Year celebration. But because of the danger and the noise disturbance they cause, the government has banned this practice in many major cities, such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.
However, people in small towns and rural areas still practice this tradition. Just as the clock strikes 12, beginning a new year on the Chinese lunar calendar, cities and towns are lit up with the sparkle of fireworks and the sound can be deafening.
Families stay up for this joyful moment, kids with firecrackers in one hand, and a lighter in another, cheerfully celebrate by throwing the small explosives one by one on the street, whilst plugging their ears.
"Lucky money" is the money given to kids from their parents and grandparents, and from bosses to their employees, as a New Year gift. The money is believed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits, hence the name "lucky money".
Parents and grandparents put the money in small, red envelopes (Hong Bao) and give them to their kids in the first day of the New Year; red, because Chinese people think it is a lucky color. This activity is often the kids' favorite.
On the first day of the New Year everybody wears new clothes, and greets relatives and friends with bows, saying Gongxi (congratulations), and wishing each other good luck and happiness in the New Year.
It is also customary for the younger generations to visit the elders, wishing them health and longevity. See Chinese New Year greetings.
In recent years, a new way to do New Year greetings has appeared in large cities: Busy people who don't have time to visit their friends will opt to send a New Year Card, or a text message to their friends or relatives. See Chinese New Year Cards.
The Second Day
Traditionally, a married daughter visits the house of her parents on the second day of Chinese New Year.
The Third to the Seventh Day
From the third day to the seventh day, people go out to visit relatives and friends.
The Eight Day
The eight day is the end of the official New Year Holiday, and people go back to work. All government agencies and businesses will stop celebrating on this day.
The Fifteenth Day
The fifteenth day of the New Year is the Yuanxiao (Lantern Festival), which marks the end of the Spring Festival celebrations.
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