Cultural Exposé: The Spring Festival (1)

284487521884437891Thanks for joining me on this most momentous of days my fellow friends and bloggers alike! We’ve been through a few festivals before, but today we’ve finally come to the “piece de resistance,” Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) or as it is known in Chinese, Chun Jie 春节.

u21012658033489482650fm23gp0Regardless of which country you call your home, I am sure you must have heard mention of, even if you have never experienced it, The Chinese New Year, known as the “Spring Festival,” this traditional festival marks the first day of the lunar calendar, which as we have discussed before (Re: The Mid- Autumn Festival) was the traditional time keeping invention of Ancient agricultural China.

The basic fact that we need to know about the Spring Festival is that it falls on a different day every  year, as the lunar calendar, unlike modern day western calendars calculates the exact same day every year. Amazing, isn’t it? That leads us to our second point is that Spring Festival falls on what is known as Chu Xi(除夕) which is equivalent our “Christmas Eve,” as the festival falls one day before the first day of the new year which is known as Zheng Yi(正月/初一)1432428933191061

Needless to say, this is only the most basic of traditional knowledge surrounding the Spring Festival, as delving any further into the history of this celebration will require quite the dedicated effort on both my part as the writer and you as the reader. So what we will do now is take a quick look at some of the more popular ways of celebrating Spring Festival.

timg-2The first thing you need is of course…Fireworks! No Spring festival is complete without fireworks and as can be assumed there is an accompanying legend as to why this is so. In our modern era, fireworks lend a festive atmosphere to the entire affair with copious amounts of dazzle, sparkle, booms, smoke and overall beauty. However, in the time of lore, fireworks had the sole purpose of protecting the common folk from the creature known as Nian Shou 年兽. This terrifying creature had but one fear, and that was the noise caused by the exploding fireworks. If you did not have fireworks then you ran the risk of having your children being taken by this fiend.

timg-3Fun isn’t it? The second precept for a good Spring festival is the Chun Yun 春运 ( Spring Migration),  undoubtedly a large, multi-coursed family lunch and dinner, visiting friends and family and-saving the best for last-the red packets or red envelopes.

That’s quite a lot to take in but simply put it goes a little something like this;

1: Every one must return home to spend the festival with their family. In the world’s most populous country this gives rise to the annual traffic nightmare which is known as the Spring Migration.

2: Food, food and more food. It goes without saying that food is a big part of every festival and Spring festival is no different. Apart from the usual dishes, the Northern Chinese also eat a bowl of dumplings while Southern Chinese eat sesame filled glutinous rice dumplings. However, every province has its own unique New year’s dish.

3: 万事如意, 事事顺利,恭喜发财,年年有鱼,新年大吉( To be explained in next issue). It is expected to visit your friends and family at their homes, wish them the best for the new year, and usually watch the CCTV Spring Show with them, bringing us to…

4: It is expected to give younger members of the family red money filled packets as a sign of affection.( To be further explained next issue) 

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With this we come to the end of this first issue on the Spring Festival and I would like to leave you with this, Happy Year of the Rooster!!

万事如意,鸡年大吉!

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