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Chinese Custom--023: Custom of Chinese Spring Festival -- Feb 16, 2018
Today --Feb 17, 2018 is the first day of Chinese Year of the Dog. I would like to introduce something about it:

Chinese New Year's Day is accounted according to the lunar calendar, therefore, it is on a different day each year. This year is Feb 16, but 2016 was on Feb 19, 2016. This year is the Year of Dog, last year was the Year of Roost.

Chinese New Year's Day is also called the Spring Festival.

Every Chinese New Year's Day is on a different day because it is determined by the lunar calendar. Spring Spring Festival Holiday is the most important time of China. It usually continues   for about 15 days from the New Year's Eve.

To Chinese people, the Spring Festival is a time to reunite with family and the family reunion dinner on the New Year's Eve is the most meal of a year.

Therefore, no matter who he is, or where he is, as long as it is possible, Chinese person will come back home to spend the festival with his family. The whole family will be together and will stay up late on the New Year's Eve --- waiting for the bell sounds at 12:00pm. Then, people will set off firecrackers. In most areas, especially in north part of China, people will start to eat Jiaozi while listening to the ding of the New Year.

Spring Festival is also a good time to connect with personal feelings. About 20 years ago, people enjoyed visiting each other in the others' houses, about 10 years ago, people enjoyed making a phone call, but now, most of poeple use a cell phone message of a Wechat messages...   Anyway, among the family members, the typical method to do is still to visit the parents, then brothers and sisters.
Among friends and colleagues usually have a meal together or just make a phone call or send a message...

People usually bring some gifts. The older people, especially the parents or grandparents, will send children some money as a lunar New Year gift in a red paper bag.

Red is the main color during Spring Festival. From lanterns on the gates and other decorations to firecrackers at night and gifts in the hands of people, almost everything is red. The Spring Festival makes China red everywhere. It is the symbol of luck, happiness, and success.

There are many different custom and ways of celebrating Spring Festival in different places. I hope to introduce them to you in next article. :-)

Note: The photoes in the articles were taken by me near my 3 third office in Shenzhen on the New Year's Eve 2001.


The Main Custom Of Spring Fasitval

Chinese New Year's Day -- Chinese Spring Festival is the oldest and the most important festival of China. It is on the first day of the first month of the lunar year. It started from the activities to offer sacrifice to gods or ancestors from Yin Dynasty (B.C. 14 century - B.C.11 century). When the Spring Festival comes, that means the winter has past and the spring will come; everything is getting new and a new year's planting will be started. So, people wanted to celebrate this festival with songs and dances and so on. Here are something more about China's Spring Festival:

Swept and Garnished :

Ahead about 7 days, people start to clean and sweep all of the bad, poor things out of the door and to welcome a new starting with a clean work room, home and also a clean individual -- to have shower, clean hair before 0:00 of the Eve of Spring Festival... :-)

Going Shopping:
Within the last 10 days before the Spring Festival, people have a great "duty" to go shopping: food, gifts for family, relatives and friends and new clothes and caps for children are something mainly to buy. :-)

Attaching Spring Festival Scrolls:

To attach some spring festival scrolls or paper-cut for window decoration, to hang up some red lanterns by the gate or attach a big "Fu" -- "Blessing" word on the door means luck has come into a family or a company inside. :-)

This tradition was started about 1000 years ago.

Here is a story about the orgine of the Spring Scrolle:

It is said that in Chinese ancient fable, there was a golden rooster on a mountain in the Ghostdom. Every morning, as soon as the rooster sings, all of the ghosts have to come back the ghostdom. By the gate of the Ghostdom stood two god's men, name "Shen Tu" and "Yu Lei". If any ghost had done anything bad in the night, both of them would catch him and send him to be eaten by a tiger. So, all ghosts scared Shen Tu and Yu Lei.

For this reason, human being carved the Shen Tu and Yu Lei's features on the peach wood boards and hung them on the gates during the lunar New Year's Day. The peach wood boards were called "Tao Fu".

Until the Song Dynasty ( 960-1279), people started to write Spring Festival Scrolls on the peach wood boards. One hand to keep the meaning of the Taofu and their good wishes; the other hand to decorate the houses. :-)

Right now, this custom has been changed writing Spring Festival Scrolls on the red paper as you have seen on the doors or gates in China and Chinatown usually. :-)

Firing Firecracker:

Spring Festival is also called "Guo Nian" that means "to spend the New Year". In ancient Chinese tale, Nian -- Year was an animal that brings people luckless. As soon as it came, the trees and plants would be wither; as soon as it went away, everything in the world would grow and fresh flowers would blossom everywhere. Then, how could people make Nian -- Year pass soon? To fire firecracker and drive it. away. So, you find as soon as the New Year¡¯s bell starts to ring at 0:00, firecracker sounds start everywhere.

Anyway, right now, many Chinese cities has forbidden to fire   firecracker already.   

Family Reuniting :
Spring Festival is the time that families reunite. Most of children who are in the other places will come back home. In the Eve of the Spring Festival, all of the family members have a reunited dinner. All of the family stay up late or all night in the New Year's Eve to wait for the New Year coming.

Eating "Jiaozi","Niangao"and Traditional Food

In the North of China, people have the custom to eat "Jiao zi". Both of the two words means "gather each other" . In the South of China, people have the habit to eat Nian Gao -- Nice Cake. Via the way to eat Niangao to look forward the life in the new year sweet and be imporved better.

To Visit Family, Relatives and Friends; to Wish them A Happy New Year:

Along with the first dinging of the New Year, the firecrackers start to sound and new year starts. The members in the family start to give the older people New Year's greeting . The older ones will give the children some gift or money in a red paper bag as a lunar New Year gift. From the second day, people start to visit relatives and friends, to offer sacrifice ancestors... until 5th day, most of people re-start to work and until 15th day, after the festival of lanterns. A Spring Festival finally has past. :-)

Ok, there are also many different habitudes in different places and in different nations. This year, I just introduce something over for you. I am looking forward to meet you in a new year and wish you and your family have a happier new year with more smiles and good luck.

By the way, from Chinese New Year's Day -- today, Chinese will finish the Year of Horse and enters the Year of Goat. About this, I have written something to introduce Chinese Shenxiao and hope you enjoy it. :-)


Chinese Custom: Know Something about Chinese Shenxiao --Zodiac in the Year of the Dragon

According to Chinese traditional calendar, 2018 is the Year of Dog.

That means the children who will be born since today -- Chinese New Year's Day (Feb 16, 2018) until next Eve of Chinese New Year, their Chinese Shengxiao / Zodiac is "Dog".

There are 12 Shengxiao / Zodiac in our Chinese cultures. It is a way to record year in China.

Since Eastern Han Dynasty (206 BC to 221), we have been using 12 animals to represent 12 Earthly Branches while to symbolize the years.

The 12 Earthly Branches and the 12 animals are:

Zi --Rat, Chou --Ox, Yin --Tiger, Mou---Rabbit, Chen --Dragon, Si --Snake,Wu --Horse,Wei -- Sheep, Shen --Monke,You --Rooster, Xu --Dog, Hai ---Pig

Our tradition suggests that a person born in some year resembles some animal. For example, Philip was born in Chen year, his symbolization is Dragon. Migs was born in Yin year, his symbolization is Tiger. Every 12 years, there is another dragon year and another tiger year...

Since 1911, we have also used the Gregorian calendar to record the time, so we correspond the Shenxiao with the Gregorian calendar. For example, the Chen year may be the year 2000, and the Yin year may be 1974.

People's personality characteristics are linked to the year they were born.

1. Rat Year:

...1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008...

Basic characteristics: Emotional and Opportunistic

The rat is clever, sensitive and always cares for his lover. He is ready to face challenges. Whenever there is difficulty, he will try to do his best to work it out.

2. Ox Year:

... 1913 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997...

Basic Characteristics: Powerful and Faithful

Ox is a man of good leadership who always believe in the saying, ¡°Look before you leap.¡± He also has a positive attitude towards his work and cares about his family.

3. Tiger Year:

... 1914 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 ...

Basic Characteristic: Independent and Optimistic

He is well organized and often works alone. He is lucky and will enjoy success but refrain from being too self-centred.

4. Rabbit Year:

... 1915 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999...

Basic Characteristics: Honest and Elegant

Rabbit is well received by others but may at times cause envy. He is particularly able in design and creative work.

5. Dragon Year:

...1916 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000...

Basic Characteristics: Confident and Idealistic

The Dragon is a symbol of luck, virtue, peace and long-life. He will do everything to make his dreams come true. He is also passionate, brave and generous.

6. Snake Year:

... 1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 ...

Basic Characteristics: Attractive and romantic

He is equipped with exceptional judgement and is conscientious. He is always well groomed.

7. Horse Year:

... 1918 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002....

Basic Characteristics: Optimistic and A Good Leader

The Horse is kind-hearted and liked by others. He always works in his way and seldom accepts the opinion of others. He is good at managing his money but not his love affairs.

8. Sheep Year:

...1919 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003...

Basic Characteristics: Kind-hearted and Artistic

The Goat is elegant and charming. He loves nature. He is much stronger than he looks. He loves his family. He needs to try to be more creative and responsible.

9. Monkey Year:

...1920 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1922 2004 ¡­

Basic Characteristics: Naughty but Clever

The Monkey is an intelligent person with good memory. He acts like a politician in a way that he can avoid falling into traps. He takes every opportunity to show off his ability. He can also perform is duties.

10. Rooster Year:

...1921 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 ...

Basic Characteristics: Outspoken and High Profile

The Rooster does not trust anyone, but he is ready to give advice and support others. He pays much attention to his appearance. He is born to be lucky and his life is full of resources. As a woman, she has some original ideas about colors.

11. Dog Year:

...1922 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 ...

Basic Characteristics: Frank but Pessimistic

The dog is eager to find out the truth. He is faithful and ready to serve others. That is why he can easily gain their respect.

12. Pig Year:

...1923 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 ...

Basic Characteristics: Fair but Materialistic

The pig is brave, thoughtful, polite, considerate and ready to help. He is also reliable and thus makes a lot of friends from different areas. His diligence and hard work pave the way for his great success.

In other countries, there are similar ways of recording the year. In India, there are mouse, ox, lion, rabbit, viper, horse, goat, macaque, rooster, dog and pig. In Greece and Egypt there are bull, goat, lion, donkey, crab, snake, dog, rat (in Egypt is cat), crocodile, flamingo, ape and eagle.

What is your Shenxiao / Zodiac? What is your luck in 2013 according to your Chinese Shenxiao?

Could you please let me know about recording years in your country?

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, you are welcome to write to shirley@ebridge.cn or leave your message on Message Board.

Shirley Yinping Zhang
Feb 16,2018(Beijing Time)