Traditional Activities for the Chinese New Year – Part 1

From the 23rd of the twelfth lunar month, it has begun to enter the new year period. Until the 15 January of the lunar year, almost every day has a different New Year customs. Today let’s see the 1st part!


Làyuè èr shí sān – xiǎo nián

‘Làyuè’ is the 12th lunar month

December 23 of the Lunar Calendar (Little New Year)

Custom: Worshiping the Kitchen God
As the legend goes, there is a kitchen god in each house who is responsible for the kitchen and oversees the conduct of the family. On this day, the kitchen god returns to Heaven to report the conducts of the family to the Emperor of Heaven. Therefore, worshipping the kitchen god aims to “please him.” People put out some sweet and sticky foods, such as rice dumplings and malted sugar. In this way, the lips of the kitchen god will be stuck together, and he cannot report any wrongdoings of the family. Thus the family can lead an auspicious life.



Làyuè èr shí sì

December 24 of the Lunar Calendar

Custom: Dusting
After worshipping the kitchen god, people begin to thoroughly clean their houses to sweep away bad luck and welcome good luck. Dusting shows the good wish of putting away old things and welcoming a new life, making everything look fresh in the new year.



Làyuè èrshíwǔ

December 25 of the Lunar Calendar

Custom: Pasting Window Paper and Making Tofu
The times for pasting window paper are gone. Nowadays, the tradition is replaced by cleaning windows. Tofu is homophonic with “Toufu (first fortune of the year)”, so it is considered as a good food which brings happiness. In order to prepare it for the Spring Festival, people should begin to grind beans and make tofu today.



Làyuè èrshíliù

December 26 of the Lunar Calendar


Custom: Preparation of Meat and Shopping for the Spring Festival
When there was insufficient food in the past, the majority of ordinary people could enjoy a comparatively lavish feast only during the Spring Festival can be started on the day. Besides meat and fish, people also purchase cigarettes, wines, fruits, gifts and festive ornaments.



Làyuè èrshíqī

December 27 of the Lunar Calendar

Custom: Bating and Going to the Market
According to the traditional folk customs of the Han ethnic group, people should take a bath and do their washings to get rid of bad luck from the past year and welcome the new year. Besides the purpose of purchasing goods, people also go shopping to enjoy the exciting atmosphere of the Spring Festival in advance.



Làyuè èrshíbā

December 28 of the Lunar Calendar

Custom: Leaving Dough and Pasting Spring Couplets
Besides meat and side dishes, people also prepare cooked wheaten food for the Spring Festival. People in north China mainly eat noodles. They leaven dough, steam buns or cook noodles during the Spring Festival. Today, people also paste spring couplets and pictures. With concise texts and festive patterns, people show their welcome for the Spring Festival. In addition, these activities indicate that the Spring Festival begins.



Làyuè èrshíjiǔ – xiǎo chúxī

December 29 of the Lunar Calendar

Custom: Paying Tribute to Ancestors
Preparation for the Spring Festival should be completed today, the day before New Year’s Eve. Worshipping ancestors is also a major event on this day, by which people express their gratitude and yearning for their ancestors during the important festival.



Dànián sānshí – chúxī

December 30 of the Lunar Calendar

December 30 of the lunar calendar, also called “Chuxi” (New Year’s Eve), is the last day of the year according to the lunar calendar. It means saying goodbye to the last year and welcoming the new year. Chuxi is to Chinese people what Christmas Eve is to Westerners. And it’s also the climax of the whole Spring Festival. There are many customs in every period of time on this special day and those customs have been well-observed for thousands of years.




Preparing for the Reunion Dinner

Tuánniánfàn zhǔnbèi

In the morning, every family begins killing chicken and fishes as well as cutting meat and vegetables to prepare for the Reunion Dinner.




Praying to Ancestors

Bàijìng zǔxiān

Although different regions have different customs, many will pray to their ancestors before the dinner on this day. All the family members hosted by their patriarch offer incense and kowtow to the memorial tablets or the pictures of their ancestors, then they burn paper money and pray one by one. They also present the main dishes of the Reunion Dinner including pork as offerings to their respect to the ancestors.




Enjoying the Reunion Dinner & Giving Lucky Money

Tuánniánfàn kāixí, fā yāsui

The two wonderful meals at this day are called “Reunion Dinners”, among which the New Year’s Eve Dinner is much more important.

There are abundant dishes for the New Year’s Eve Dinner. The dishes are of a wide variety and they all imply the meaning of good luck. For example, “fish” shares a similar pronunciation with “Yu” which stands for “abundance”; beetroot sounds like “Cai Tou” that means one can have good luck in the new year. Besides, there are chicken, duck, fish, pork and beef in the dinner, which symbolize a rich new year. While is Sichuan, every family has home-made sausage and cured meat as well as Chinese liquor.

During dinner time, Chinese people do not just eat and drink although the food and drinks are very delicious. They also say some “best wishes” such as “I wish you good health and a long life”, “may all go well with you”, etc. to the elders, and then hope to get lucky money from those happy elders. It is said that the lucky money can drive out evil spirits because it shares the same pronunciation with “Sui” in Chinese (meaning evil spirits), thus children who get lucky money will be safe in the new year. Surely, receiving lucky money is the favourite “event” of every child during the Spring Festival.




Watching Spring Festival Gala

Kànchūnjié liánhuān wǎnhuì

Shown during the Chinese New Year’s Eve, the Spring Festival Gala is a large variety show produced by China Central Television. Although it has been criticized for many times because of its outdated contents and forms, the Gala is still an important program for Chinese families to sit together, enjoy family love and share happiness in the Spring Festival.




Offering Incense and Praying

Shàng xiāng qǐfú

Near the midnight, the sound of the Gala has been already covered by the thunder of fireworks outside. At the moment, all the family members go to toll New Year bells and offer incense at 24:00 in a nearby temple. Every year, large temples in different regions hold grand Spring Ritual for Blessings on New Year’s Eve. People put their palms together devoutly and pray for a wonderful new year at the crowded temple. Such activity will last to the end of the first day of the year.

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