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Home History and Culture China Spring Festival 2011: Year of the Rabbit
China Spring Festival 2011: Year of the Rabbit
Learn Chinese - History and Culture

2011 spring festival

Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is one of the most important traditional Chinese holidays. It is sometimes called the Lunar New Year, especially by people outside China. The festival traditionally begins on the first day of the first lunar month (Chinese: 正月; pinyin: zhēng yuè) in the Chinese calendar and ends on the 15th; this day is called Lantern Festival. Chinese New Year's Eve is known as Chúxī. It literally means "Year-pass Eve"

Celebrated in areas with large populations of ethnic Chinese, Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the new year celebrations of its geographic neighbours, as well as cultures with whom the Chinese have had extensive interaction. These include Aboriginal Taiwanese people, Koreans, Mongolians, Nepalese, Bhutanese, Vietnamese, and formerly the Japanese before 1873. In Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and other countries or regions with significant Han Chinese populations, Chinese New Year is also celebrated, and has, to varying degrees, become part of the traditional culture of these countries. In Canada, although Chinese New Year is not an official holiday, many ethnic Chinese hold large celebrations and Canada Post issues New Year's themed stamps in domestic and international rates.

Although the Chinese calendar traditionally does not use continuously numbered years, its years are often numbered from the reign of Huangdi outside China. But at least three different years numbered 1 are now used by various scholars, making the year 2008 "Chinese Year" 4706, 4705, or 4645.

The Spring Festival 2011 falls on February 3. It ushers in the Chinese year of the rabbit. As the rabbit is an animal of peace and harmony, let´s hope the year of the rabbit brings more peace and prosperity for the world.


Festivities

alt" Red couplets and red lanterns are displayed on the door frames and light up the atmosphere. The air is filled with strong Chinese emotions. In stores in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, and other cities, products of traditional Chinese style have started to lead fashion trend[s]. Buy yourself a Chinese-style coat, get your kids tiger-head hats and shoes, and decorate your home with some beautiful red Chinese knots, then you will have an authentic Chinese-style Spring Festival. ”

The Chinese New Year celebrations are marked by visits to kin, relatives and friends, a practice known as "new-year visits" (Chinese: 拜年; pinyin: bàinián). New clothings are usually worn to signify a new year. The colour red is liberally used in all decorations. Red packets are given to juniors and children by the married and elders.

Days before the new year
On the days before the New Year celebration Chinese families give their home a thorough cleaning. There is a Cantonese saying "Wash away the dirt on ninyabaat" (年廿八,洗邋遢), but the practice is not usually restricted on nin'ya'baat (年廿八, the 28th day of month 12). It is believed the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the preceding year and makes their homes ready for good luck. Brooms and dust pans are put away on the first day so that luck cannot be swept away. Some people give their homes, doors and window-frames a new coat of red paint. Homes are often decorated with paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases and couplets. Purchasing new clothing, shoes and receiving a hair-cut also symbolize a fresh start .

In many households where Buddhism or Taoism is prevalent, home altars and statues are cleaned thoroughly, and altars that were adorned with decorations from the previous year are also taken down and burned a week before the new year starts, and replaced with new decorations. Taoists (and Buddhists to a lesser extent) will also "send gods" (送神), an example would be burning a paper effigy of the Kitchen God, the recorder of family functions. This is done so that the kitchen god can report to the Jade Emperor of the family household's transgressions and good deeds. Families often offer sweet foods (such as candy) in order to "bribe" gods into reporting good things about the family.

Chinese New Year lion dance at The Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.The biggest event of any Chinese New Year's Eve is the dinner every family will have. A dish consisting of fish will appear on the tables of Chinese families. It is for display for the New Year's Eve dinner. This meal is comparable to Christmas dinner in the West. In northern China, it is customary to make dumplings (jiaozi 饺子) after dinner and have it around midnight. Dumplings symbolize wealth because their shape is like a Chinese tael. By contrast, in the South, it is customary to make a new year cake (Niangao, 年糕) after dinner and send pieces of it as gifts to relatives and friends in the coming days of the new year. Niangao literally means increasingly prosperous year in year out. After the dinner, some families go to local temples, hours before the new year begins to pray for a prosperous new year; however in modern practice, many households hold parties and even hold a countdown to the new lunar year. Beginning in the 1980s, the CCTV New Year's Gala was broadcast minutes before the start of the New Year.

altFirst day of the new year
The first day is for the welcoming of the deities of the heavens and earth, officially beginning at midnight. Many people, especially Buddhists, abstain from meat consumption on the first day because it is believed that this will ensure longevity for them. Some consider lighting fires and using knives to be bad luck on New Year's Day, so all food to be consumed is cooked the day before.

Most importantly, the first day of Chinese New Year is a time when families visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended family, usually their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.

Some families may invite a lion dance troupe as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Lunar New Year as well as to evict bad spirits from the premises. Members of the family who are married also give red packets containing cash to junior members of the family, mostly children and teenagers.

While fireworks and firecrackers are traditionally very popular, some regions have banned them due to concerns over fire hazards, which have resulted in increased number of fires around New Years and challenged municipal fire departments' work capacity. For this reason, various city governments (e.g., Hong Kong, and Beijing, for a number of years) issued bans over fireworks and firecrackers in certain premises of the city. As a substitute, large-scale fireworks have been launched by governments in cities like Hong Kong to offer citizens the experience.

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Second day of the new year
Incense is burned at the graves of ancestors as part of the offering and prayer ritual.The second day of the Chinese New Year is for married daughters to visit their birth parents. Traditionally, daughters who have been married may not have the opportunity to visit their birth families frequently.

On the second day, the Chinese pray to their ancestors as well as to all the gods. They are extra kind to dogs and feed them well as it is believed that the second day is the birthday of all dogs.

Business people of the Cantonese dialect group will hold a 'Hoi Nin' prayer to start their business on the 2nd day of Chinese New Year. The prayer is done to pray that they will be blessed with good luck and prosperity in their business for the year.

Third and fourth days of the new year
The third and fourth day of the Chinese New Year are generally accepted as inappropriate days to visit relatives and friends due to the following schools of thought. People may subscribe to one or both thoughts.

1) It is known as "chì kǒu" (赤口), meaning that it is easy to get into arguments. It is suggested that the cause could be the fried food and visiting during the first two days of the New Year celebration.

2) Families who had an immediate kin deceased in the past 3 years will not go house-visiting as a form of respect to the dead, but people may visit them on this day. Some people then conclude that it is inauspicious to do any house visiting at all. The third day of the New Year is allocated to grave-visiting instead.

Fifth day of the new year
In northern China, people eat Jiǎozi (simplified Chinese: 饺子; traditional Chinese: 餃子) (dumplings) on the morning of Po Wu (破五). This is also the birthday of the Chinese god of wealth. In Taiwan, businesses traditionally re-open on this day, accompanied by firecrackers.

Seventh day of the new year
The seventh day, traditionally known as renri 人日, the common man's birthday, the day when everyone grows one year older.

It is the day when tossed raw fish salad, yusheng, is eaten. This is a custom primarily among the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Singapore. People get together to toss the colourful salad and make wishes for continued wealth and prosperity.

For many Chinese Buddhists, this is another day to avoid meat.

Ninth day of the new year
The ninth day of the New Year is a day for Chinese to offer prayers to the Jade Emperor of Heaven (天公) in the Taoist Pantheon. The ninth day is traditionally the birthday of the Jade Emperor.

This day is especially important to Hokkiens and Teochews (Min Nan speakers). Come midnight of the eighth day of the new year, Hokkiens will offer thanks giving prayers to the Emperor of Heaven. Offerings will include sugarcane as it was the sugarcane that had protected the Hokkiens from certain extermination generations ago. Tea is served as a customary protocol for paying respect to an honored person.

 

Fifteenth day of the new year
altThe fifteenth day of the new year is celebrated as Yuánxiāo jié (元宵节), otherwise known as Chap Goh Mei in Fujian dialect. Rice dumplings Tangyuan (simplified Chinese: 汤圆; traditional Chinese: 湯圓; pinyin: tāngyuán), a sweet glutinous rice ball brewed in a soup, is eaten this day. Candles are lit outside houses as a way to guide wayward spirits home. This day is celebrated as the Lantern Festival, and families walk the street carrying lighted lanterns.

This day often marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.

Reunion dinner
A reunion dinner is held on New Year's Eve where members of the family, near and far away, get together for the celebration. The venue will usually be in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year's Eve dinner is very sumptuous and traditionally includes chicken and fish. In some areas, fish (simplified Chinese: 鱼; traditional Chinese: 魚; pinyin: yú) is included, but not eaten completely (and the remainder is stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase "may there be surpluses every year" (traditional Chinese: 年年有餘; simplified Chinese: 年年有余; pinyin: nián nián yǒu yú) sounds the same as "may there be fish every year."

In mainland China, many families will banter whilst watching the CCTV New Year's Gala in the hours before midnight.

Red packets for the immediate family are sometimes distributed during the reunion dinner. These packets often contain money in certain numbers that reflect good luck and honorability. Several foods are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness, and good fortune. Several of the Chinese food names are homophones for words that also mean good things.

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春节简介
春节是中国民间最隆重最富有特色的传统节日,是我国民间最隆重、最热闹的一个古老节日。一般指除夕和正月初一,是一年的第一天,又叫阴历年,俗称“过年”。但在民间,传统意义上的春节是指从腊月初八的腊祭或腊月二十三或二十四的祭灶,一直到正月十五,其中以除夕和正月初一为高潮。在春节期间,我国的汉族和很多少数民族都要举行各种活动以示庆祝。这些活动均以祭祀神佛、祭奠祖先、除旧布新、迎禧接福、祈求丰年为主要内容。活动丰富多彩,带有浓郁的民族特色。在天津过春节还有挂中国结的习惯,大年30之前天津人有到天津古文化街乔香阁请中国结的习俗,取乔香纳福之意。
春节是汉族最重要的节日,而且满、蒙古,瑶、壮、白、高山、赫哲、哈尼、达斡尔、侗、黎等十几个少数民族也有过春节的习俗,只是过节的形式上有自己的特点。
春节不同时代有不同名称。在先秦时叫“上日”、“元日”、“改岁”、“献岁”等;到了两汉时期,又被叫为“三朝”、“岁旦”、“正旦”、“正日”;魏晋南北朝时称为“元辰”、“元日”、“元首”、 “岁朝”等;到了唐宋元明,则称为“元旦”、“元 ”、“岁日”、“新正”、“新元”等;而清代,一直叫“元旦”或“元日”。
自西汉以来,春节的习俗一直延续到今天。
2006年5月20日,“春节”民俗经国务院批准列入第一批国家级非物质文化遗产名录。
 

春节由来
春节古称“正旦”、“岁首”、“三元”等。1911年12月31日,中华民国湖北军政府在发布的《内务部关于中华民国改用阳历的通谕》中,明确将年节称为“春节”。到1949年9月27日,中国人民政治协商会议第一届全体会议进一步明确农历正月初一称为“春节”,“春节”之名正式列入中国节日法典。
“年”的甲骨文写法为上面部分为“禾”字,下面部分为“人”字。金文的“年”字也与甲骨文相同也从禾、从人。小篆的“年”写作“上禾下千”,《说文解字·禾部》:“年,谷熟也。从禾,从千声。”小篆将“人”字讹变为“千”了,因而许慎用了此说,而“千”字本为有饰的人,此解也并不矛盾。“禾”是谷物的总称,不能错解仅为“小麦”。年成的好坏,主要由“禾”的生长和收成情况来决定,而现在已发掘出来的甲骨文中的“禾”字,几乎都是看上去沉甸甸地被压弯了腰,可见它象征着取得谷物生产的大丰收。“年”字下面的“人”字又作何解释呢?从甲骨文看,“年”字好象是人头上顶着谷物。
另外还有一种传说,中国古时候有一种叫“年”的怪兽,头长触角,凶猛异常。“年”长年深居海底,每到除夕才爬上岸,吞食牲畜伤害人命。因此,每到除夕这天,村村寨寨的人们扶老携幼逃往深山,以躲避“年”兽的伤害。有一年除夕,从村外来了个乞讨的老人。乡亲们一片匆忙恐慌景象,只有村东头一位老婆婆给了老人些食物,并劝他快上山躲避“年”兽,那老人捋髯笑道:“婆婆若让我在家呆一夜,我一定把‘年’兽撵走。”老婆婆仍然继续劝说,乞讨老人笑而不语。
半夜时分,“年”兽闯进村。它发现村里气氛与往年不同:村东头老婆婆家,门贴大红纸,屋内烛火通明。“年”兽浑身一抖,怪叫了一声。将近门口时,院内突然传来“砰砰啪啪”的炸响声,“年”浑身战栗,再不敢往前凑了。原来,“年”最怕红色、火光和炸响。这时,婆婆的家门大开,只见院内一位身披红袍的老人在哈哈大笑。“年”大惊失色,狼狈逃蹿了。第二天是正月初一,避难回来的人们见村里安然无恙十分惊奇。这时,老婆婆才恍然大悟,赶忙向乡亲们述说了乞讨老人的许诺。这件事很快在周围村里传开了,人们都知道了驱赶“年”兽的办法。(客家人的传说)从此每年除夕,家家贴红对联、燃放爆竹;户户烛火通明、守更待岁。初一一大早,还要走亲串友道喜问好。这风俗越传越广,成了中国民间最隆重的传统节日。

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 February 2011 12:19
 
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