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Chinese Custom--006: The Main Custom Of Spring Fasitval
Hi, friends, this Saturday, Jan 28 is the Eve of Chinese Spring Festival.

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 that 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. So, about 5 years ago, I wrote something about Spring Festival in 2001 as my English writing practice. Now, I would like to write something more to introduce some custom of China's Spring Festival to you and hope it is helpful...:-)

Swept and Garnished :
From the 7th day before the Eve of the Spring Festival, people start to clean everywhere for sweeping 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 -- so people are used to have showers, 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 that luck has come into a family or a company inside. :-)

This consuetude started about 1000 years ago, but then, its original form is "Tao Fu".

It is said that in Chinese ancient fable, there is 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 standing two god men, name "Shen Tu" and "Yu Lei". If any ghost has done anything bad in the night, both of them will take and tie him/her, then to send him/her to be eaten by a tiger. So, all ghosts scare Shen Tu and Yu Lei. So, people carve their features with peach wood boards and hung on the gate during lunar New Year. The peach wood boards are called "Tao Fu".

Until the Song Dynasty (A. D.960- A. D.1279), people started to write Spring Festival Scrolls on the peach wood boards. One side, it can still keep the meaning of the Taofu, the other side, it can express people's own good wishes, the third side that can decorate a house or a home. :-)

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

Firing Firecracker:

Spring Festival is also called "Guo Nian" that means "to spend the New Year". In ancient Chinese tale, Nian -- Year is an animal that brings people luckless. As soon as it comes, the trees and plants will wither; as soon as it passes, everything in the world will grow and fresh flowers will blossom everywhere. Then, how can people make Nian -- Year pass soon? To fire firecracker and drive it. away. So, you find as soon as the New Years bell starts to ring, firecracker sounds start at the same time at 0:00 when Spring Festival starts.

Right now, many cities in China fire skyrocket by the local governments instead of to fire firecrackers by residents themselves. :-)   

Family Reuniting :
Spring Festival is a day 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 comes.

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 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 happy new year with many smiles, much good luck.

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

Also hope my little wet site keep until next year with a good luck as well. :-)

If you have any questions, comments and suggestions, please write to shirley@ebridge.cn , or shirleyz004@yahoo.com, You are welcomed to publish your opinions in the forum as well.

--Shirley
Written and Edited On Fri, Jan 27, 2006