Guest Post: Marlon Gonzalez
Hello Reader! This upcoming month will be my first 春节 (Chūnjié) in China, and I am more than excited for it! For those who do not know, 春节 is known as the Spring Festival and Chinese New Year because it marks the start of a new year according to the lunar calendar. This is the largest holiday in the entire country, and possibly the world, and in order to prepare myself for what’s to come I decided that I would do some research and prepare you as well!
中国人春节干什么？(Zhōngguó rén chūnjié gànshénme)[What do Chinese People do for Chinese New Year?]
1. 贴春联(tiē chūnlián) [Hanging up Spring Festival Couplets]
First and foremost, Chinese New Year is full of superstitions. For example, prior to the holiday, people all over the country will clean up their homes because it is believed that cleaning removes any trace of bad luck. At the very least it makes the place look nice for guests! Along the same vein, in order to attract good luck homes are decorated with Spring Festival Couplets (shown below).
These couplets are not only beautiful in appearance they also have auspicious text written on them in order to attract wealth, good health, and good fortune. Homes all over China will be decorated in such a manner.
2. 吃饺子(chī jiǎozi) [Eating Dumplings]
No holiday can exist without food and 春节 is no exception! In Northern China it is tradition to prepare dumplings after dinner and eat them at midnight. I was personally surprise to learn that dumplings are a symbol of wealth, and the simple reason for this is that 饺子look like a former Chinese currency known as Sycee. I added an image so that you can judge for yourself.
3. 走亲戚(zǒu qīnqi) (Visiting Relatives)
There is nothing more important during this time than family. At the core of Chinese culture is love for one’s family, and this means that the most important time of the year must be spent with relatives.
Interestingly enough, 春节is the time of the year with the largest human migration because a large majority of city residents travel back to their hometowns in order to celebrate the New Year with their parents. More so now than before, this is one of the few times in the year where three generations are under one roof. For this reason the grandparents pamper their grandchildren a little.
4. 发红包(fā hóngbāo)//收红包(shōu hóngbāo) [Giving and Receiving Red Envelops]
The tradition of giving and receiving red envelopes is an old one and more complicated than it sounds. Fundamentally, the tradition involves older couples giving children and teenagers money. The larger picture behind this symbolic ritual is that the money is supposed to suppress evil spirits. However, prior to receiving the 红包 the younger members of the family must wish their elders a prosperous New Year. Once they possess the red envelope they should sleep with them under their pillow for 7 days as it too is good luck. In addition, it is ideal if the money gifted relates to 8 as eight is a lucky number in China while anything related to 4 is bad luck.
5. 鞭炮(biānpào)! [Fireworks!]
Chinese New Year would not be the same without fireworks! Originally, fireworks were created by inserting gunpowder into a hollow bamboo stick. The explosions were thought to scare away any demons that may be around, and honestly, it was fun to do! To this day the tradition has stayed alive. The New Year is not only one of the brightest nights of the year, it is also one of the loudest! However, in some locations, like here in Beijing, the use of fireworks is being limited by the local government in order to reduce air pollution. According to the Beijinger “If orange or red air quality alerts are issued between February 3 and 13, then the sale and use of all fireworks will be banned”. In the modern world, some sacrifices have to be made, and only time will tell if this year’s sky will be colored in flowers of light.
6. 看春晚(kàn chūnwǎn) [Watch CCTV New Year’s Gala]
CCTV New Year’s Gala is an extremely popular program that airs every year for Chinese New Year and it receives about 700 million views each year! As popular as the show is, I have not heard any mention of it in the 5 months that I have been here. First of all, it is worth noting that CCTV has a YouTube channel where they have uploaded performances of years past. This was astonishing for a number of reasons. The show itself has a number of performers who sing/act/tell jokes/do acrobatics and so on! It’s an all-night event and recently amateur performers have been able to get on the show through a voting process done weeks before.
I hope that the 33rd rendition of the show is better than before and that I can get a chance to watch it on Feb. 8th
There are definitely aspects of the New Year that I did not describe to the detail that would do it justice, and there are other aspects which I did not even mention. There is a lot to cover when the Chinese culture is a few thousand years old. My suggestion to you as a reader would be to come over and experience Chinese New Year for yourself in order to have a comprehensive understanding of this tradition!