Chunjie, or the Chinese New Year, stands as the most cherished and expansive celebration for Chinese communities, akin to Christmas in Western cultures. Signifying the commencement of the Lunar New Year, it marks the pinnacle of auspiciousness in the annual calendar. The date of the Chinese New Year fluctuates each year, adhering to the lunar calendar, and in 2024, it graces us on Friday, February 10th (New Year’s Eve 9th Jan).

Little Chinese New Year, known as 小年 (Xiǎonián), typically unfolds one week before the grand festivities, signalling the commencement of preparations for the impending New Year. This day is also revered as the Festival of the Kitchen God. The exact date of this festival diverges across regions in China, with northerners commemorating it on the 23rd day of the lunar month and southerners on the 24th. It serves as a excited prelude to the vibrant tapestry of traditions that define the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Offer Sacrifices to the Kitchen God

Honouring the Kitchen God is a cherished tradition where families offer sacrifices to the deity who safeguards their fortunes. Burning paper images of the Kitchen God is a distinctive ritual, symbolising the dispatch of the deity’s spirit to Heaven to report the family’s conduct throughout the past year. A fresh set of paper images is then placed beside the stove on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day in a ceremony known as “welcoming back the Kitchen God,” ensuring the continuous oversight and protection of the household in the new year.

Eat Zaotang

Zaotang, a sweet confection from maltose, is also recognised as Guandong tang or Tanggua. Historically, it was presented as an offering to the Kitchen God. It was believed that by offering Zaotang, the Kitchen God would relay sweet sentiments to heaven. Some interpretations suggest that the Kitchen God’s speech may be impeded by sugar residue, rendering him unable to communicate.

House Cleaning

Spring Cleaning Day marks another significant aspect of the Little New Year celebration. It’s a time when every Chinese family engages in a comprehensive house cleaning, symbolizing the sweeping away of old and negative energies to make way for fresh beginnings and good fortune in the upcoming year. This tradition reflects the cultural belief in the importance of starting the new year with a clean and auspicious environment, fostering positivity and renewal in both homes and lives.

Bath and Hair-cut

As part of the cleansing ritual during the Little New Year, both adults and children traditionally take a bath or shower and have their hair cut on this auspicious day. It’s believed that by cleansing the body and trimming the hair, individuals symbolically rid themselves of any lingering negativity from the past year, preparing themselves for a fresh start in the new year. Moreover, there’s a widespread belief that it’s ominous to have a haircut during the first month of the Lunar New Year. Hence, having one’s haircut during the Little New Year allows people to fulfill this grooming tradition before the arrival of the new lunar cycle, ensuring that they avoid any potential misfortune associated with haircuts during the early days of the new year.

Window Paper-cuts

Window paper-cuts, also known as window flowers, are intricately crafted paper cuttings used to adorn doors and windows during the Chinese New Year celebrations. Made predominantly from red paper, symbolising good luck and happiness in Chinese culture, these decorations hold deep cultural significance. In northern China, it’s a customary practice to affix paper cuts onto windows as part of the Chinese New Year decoration ritual. On this day, families embark on a symbolic renewal process by removing old decorations from previous Spring Festivals and replacing them with fresh window decorations, including New Year’s paper-cuts and other auspicious ornaments. This tradition symbolises the welcoming of new blessings and fortunes into the home as the new lunar year unfolds.

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