Chinese New Year is coming soon! Our Confucius Institute for Scotland Chinese language teacher Wang Jin tells us about preparations and what to expect in China during the Spring Festival.
Chinese New Year celebrates the beginning of a new year according to the traditional Chinese calendar. The festival is usually referred to as the Spring Festival (春节, Chūnjié). It starts on the evening preceding the first day of the year and lasts until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the year. In 2019, the first day of the lunar New Year will be on Tuesday, 5 February. This will mark the start of the Year of the Pig (猪年, zhū nián).
The evening before Chinese New Year’s Day is regarded as an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual reunion dinner (年夜饭, niányè fàn). Various dishes will be served. In northern China, dumplings (饺子, jiǎozi) feature prominently in meals celebrating the festival. In the South, it is customary to make a glutinous new year cake (年糕, niángāo) and send pieces of it as gifts to relatives and friends in the coming days.
At dinnertime, the Spring Festival Gala (春节联欢晚会, Chūnjié liánhuān wǎnhuì) is shown on TV and people usually watch it during dinner. The Gala is a variety show and watching the gala is a tradition for many Chinese families.
It is also a tradition for every family to thoroughly clean their house before the arrival of the new year, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for incoming good luck.
Another custom is the decoration of windows and doors with red papercutting (剪纸, jiǎnzhǐ) and couplets (对联, duìlián). Popular themes featured in papercuts and couplets include good fortune, happiness, wealth, and longevity.
Other New Year activities include setting off firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes (红包, hóngbāo).