Spring Festival (Chinese New Year ) is the most valued and extended holiday of the year for Chinese people, just like Christmas in the west. Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year and the most auspicious time of the year. The date of the Chinese New Year changes every year because it varies each year according to the lunar calendar. It will fall on Sunday, 25th of January this year (New Year’s Eve 24th Jan).
Little Chinese New Year (小年 Xiǎonián) usually is one week before the new year, and people in China would start to prepare for the New Year. This day is also known as the Festival of the Kitchen God. The actual date of this festival differs in different regions in China. Northerners celebrate it on the 23rd of the lunar month, and Southerners celebrate on the 24th.
There are numerous customs associated with this day, to name a few:
- Offer sacrifices to the Kitchen God
Traditionally, it is an occasion to offer sacrifices to the “Kitchen God” who looks after the family’s fortunes. Burning paper images of Kitchen God is the unique tradition on this day as a way to dispatch the god’s spirit to Heaven to report on the family’s conduct over the past year. A new copy of the paper images will be put up again beside the stove on the New Year’s Eve or New Year’s day, in a ceremony known as “welcoming back the Kitchen God.” By doing so, Kitchen God will continuously oversee and protect the household in the new year.
- Eat Zaotang
Zaotang is a type of sweet made of maltose that people in China use as a sacrifice to the kitchen god According to its difference in shape, zaotang is also called Guandong tang or Tanggua.
- House cleaning
Spring cleaning day! House cleaning is another theme of the Little New Year; each Chinese family does a thorough house cleaning, sweeping out the old and bad luck in preparation for the new.
- Bath and hair-cut
As part of the cleansing ritual, adults and children would take a bath/shower and have their hair cut on this day. It is also believed that it is ominous to have a hair cut in the first month of the New Year.
- Window paper-cuts
Window paper-cuts, paper cuttings that used to decorate doors and windows. It may also be called window flowers. The paper-cuts are made of red paper, as red represents good luck and happiness in the Chinese culture.
People in the north of China are used to attaching paper-cuts on their windows as part of the Chinese new year decoration. On this day, people will take down the old decorations from previous Spring Festival and glue up the new window decorations, New Year’s paper-cuts, and auspicious decorations.