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Spring Festival Customs


13:45, October 25, 2011

The most important festival of the year in China is the Spring Festival, which starts from December 8th on the lunar calendar and lasts until January 15th. There are many customs people observe during the festival, and some are related to specific dates.

On the first day of the Spring Festival, many families make a sweet porridge of glutinous rice, millet, seeds of Job's tears, jujubes, lotus seeds, beans, longan and ginko, called 'laba'. 'Laba' is used to worship the Buddha and is offered to relatives and neighbors.

December 23rd or 24th of the lunar calendar is 'preliminary eve', when people offer sacrifices to the kitchen god. The story goes that the kitchen god reports back to the Jade Emperor in the heavens on the family's behavior on this day, so in order to keep him quiet, the offer sacrifices to stuff his mouth full to keep him from talking or telling the Jade Emperor bad things about the family. If he makes a good report to the Emperor, the family will have a good harvest, good health, and good luck in the coming year.

On December 24th of the lunar calendar people often do 'spring cleaning', wiping and cleaning out everything in the house - clothes, bedclothes and utensils - in order to get rid of bad luck for the coming year. Debts are also settled on this day.

Shopkeepers are busy as everyone buys what they need for the New Year, such as oil, rice, flour, chicken, duck, fish, meat, fruit, candies and nuts. People also buy various decorations, new clothes and shoes for children and gifts for the elderly.

The day before the Spring Festival starts, people wake up and put on their new clothes, replace their door gods, Spring Festival couplets, and paper cuts. They also pay respects to their ancestors and household gods for the fortunes of future generations. In the evening the family dines together, eating chicken ('ji'), fish ('yu') and tofu ('doufu'), as the characters for 'ji', 'yu' and 'doufu' mean auspiciousness, abundance and richness. The young greet the elderly, and the elderly give the young money in red envelopes. After dinner people stay up late to greet the New Year. It is believed that the longer people stay up, the longer the elderly will live. The deafening sounds of firecrackers going off continue throughout the night. The first five days of January on the lunar calendar are the time when friends, relatives, classmates and colleagues exchange greetings and visit with each other.


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