The Spring Festival is the oldest and most eagerly anticipated festival for Chinese people.
The festival traditionally begins on the 1st day of the first month in the Chinese lunar calendar and ends on the 15th day. It is a grand festival filled, with a variety of special customs including setting off fireworks and giving lucky money as well as dragon and lion dances and so many other activities!
Below are the top 10 most popular customs during the Spring Festival in China.
CCTV Spring Festival Gala
The CCTV New Year’s Gala is enjoyed at get-togethers on Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve throughout the country. It has been the country’s most watched variety show since its first launch in 1983.
Today, watching the show has become a tradition for many Chinese families. The gala gathers top performers from around the country and features music, dance, comedy, and drama performances.
Staying up late on New Year's Eve
Today’s February 4th, 2019… which is Chinese New Year's Eve!
The custom of staying up all night on New Year's Eve dates back to the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-289). Legend has it that, long ago, there was an ugly and furious monster called “Nian” that would come down from the mountains to hunt people on New Year’s Eve. As a consequence, people would always get together on this day and stay up late to chat, hoping for peaceful passage of time. The custom symbolizes the warding off of all diseases and disasters, wishing for good luck in the New Year.
Nowadays, Chinese people usually watch the CCTV Spring Festival Gala on this day to welcome the New Year. However, you’ll often find younger generation pass time by playing video games on TV or their own smartphones while sending and receiving red packets via social media.
Northerner Eating dumplings /
Southern eating Tangyuan, Niangao
The Chinese living in northern regions of the country usually eat jiǎo zi (dumplings) while those living in the south will be satisfied with Tangyuan. The Chinese pronunciation of Jiǎo Zi means midnight or the end and the beginning of time. The shape of the dumpling resembles gold ingot from ancient China, which is why people eat them and wish for money and treasures.
In some areas of southern China like Guangdong province, however, people celebrate such festivities by eating tangyuan. Tangyuan symbolizes and happier and more beautiful family reunion.
Southern Chinese also eat Nián gāo (a type of cake made of glutinous rice flour), a tradition considered good luck because “Nián Gāo” is seen as bringing a “higher year” to you and your family.
Stick Chun Lian (or Spring Festival couplets)/
Chun Lian is a special type of couplet used only during the Chinese New Year as part of its celebration. Chinese people usually use Chun Lian to express their good wishes. During the Spring Festival, every household will choose a couplet to affix to the door of the house to add the festival atmosphere.
Chun Lian comprises a couplet written on vertical strips of red paper in the best calligraphic style one can muster. The first line (called upper) is posted on the right side of the front door. The second line (called lower) is on the left. Usually, a third horizontal piece may be hung across and on top the door.
Paper-cuts are handicrafts made by cutting paper with scissors into different patterns. During the Spring Festival, Chinese people like to paste paper-cuts on windows, which not only help enhance the festive atmosphere but also bring enjoyment to people.
Setting off firecrackers
Firecrackers are a specialty of China, having its early origin trace back to 2,000 years ago. In the evening of the Spring Festival Eve, Chinese people set off firecrackers hoping to cast away any bad luck and welcome the better life in the next year.
Giving New Year’s greetings
People like to dress up on the first day of the Chinese New Year. The first thing they do is to extend greetings to their parents and then to their grandparents as well as any other relatives, neighbors, and friends.
The two most common greetings during the Chinese New Year are: “恭喜发财 Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái (Congratulations and be prosperous) and“新年快乐 Xīn Nián Kuài Lè” (Happy New Year).
8. Giving Lucky Money
Lucky Money is prepared for younger generations by older ones. Usually, the money is tucked into a red envelope, also known as red packets. During the New Year, red envelopes are typically given to young children and those who are unmarried. The amount of money is usually a single note to avoid figuring out the amount inside before opening.
9. Dragon dance and lion dance
The Dragon dance and lion dance are traditional Chinese folk activities which are very popular around China during the Spring Festival. In China, people believe that the dragon is a symbol of fortune, nobility, bravery and especially power, while the lion represents auspiciousness. You’ll likely come across dragon and lion dances everywhere around the country this time of year – lending a cheery, festive atmosphere to the occasion.
10. Family reunion dinner
On Chinese New Year's Eve and the first day of Spring Festival, families reunite, cook and enjoy copious amounts of food together while catching up on everyone’s life.
It’s become a habit for some families to go eat at restaurants instead of cooking at home.
The GiC team wishes both its
Chinese and foreign friends
a very happy and festive Spring Festival!