How well you know about Chinese Culture – The Spring Festival (part 6)
As one of the four ancient civilization countries in the world, the history of China is more than 5000 years. During this period, many festivals have been developed and passed down from generations to generations. Unlike the western country, all traditional Chinese festivals are celebrated according to the Chinese lunar calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar. This series of articles is going to present you 6 traditional Chinese festivals, started with the Spring Festival.
The Spring Festival is when Chinese celebrate New Year’s Day of the Chinese lunar calendar, the corresponding date of which in the Gregorian calendar is between 21 January and 21 February. It varies from years to years. Although technically, it refers to only one single day; in the reality, the corresponding public holiday usually lasts for 7 days in the modern era. Those who work far from home would usually come back to home to celebrate with their families, relatives, and friends. Due to the large amount of population “migrating” at the beginning of the festival, the government has to issue some policies every year for the sake of the safety of those returnees.
There are many preparation and celebration activities before and during the Spring Festival. Several days before the New Year, almost every household would start to do a spring cleaning – clean the outdoors and the indoors of their homes along with all clothes and bedsheets. After that, people would put up the couplets with Chinese calligraphy and red paper at the two wings of the door. Posts of the gods of doors would be also put up in order to ward off the evil spirit. The post of a Chinese character “Fu” (福) is also a must. “Fu” means fortune in Chinese. People hope that the post would bring in the wealth and the good luck. When you visit a Chinese friend during the Spring Festival, sometimes you might find that the “Fu” post on the door is upside down. The post can be pasted normally or upside down, because in Chinese the “reversed fu” is homophonic with “fu arrives”, both of which are pronounced as “fu dao le”.
Apart from the firework show, which is similar to what the West does in order to celebrate the new year, Chinese would also set off the firecracker. It is said that in ancient China there was a mysterious monster called “nian” that would hurt people during the period of the new year, and the noise of the firecracker would scare it off. It does not matter whether or not the “nian” is a myth; people today are still using the firecracker during the festival, wedding or funeral. Although it is forbidden to use it near the residential areas due to its potential safety risk and the severe air pollution it causes, it is still widely in the suburb region.
As for other activities, there are many differences between the south and the north region of China, as well as between minorities. That being said, in recent years, watching the Spring Festival Gala broadcasted by China Central Television Station is becoming another “traditional” activity among all Chinese at home and abroad.