The Chinese New Year is a fantastical celebration full of rich, vibrant culture and traditions. This celebration is also known as the Spring Festival, and remains the most important social and economic holiday in Chinese culture. It is a fifteen day celebration filled with food, family, and ancient traditions like; decorations, and spiritual cleansing. The attention of every member of the household is fixed on the preparation and celebration of the New Year.
There are numerous ancient traditions that the Chinese complete, in order to prepare for the New Year. One of the first traditions I came across in my research was the preparation of ones self. During this time of year there is a tendency to want to tie up loose ends in their personal and professional lives. People and businesses will pay off or collect debt before the New Year, this is in an attempt to secure a year filled with prosperity. People will participate in spiritual cleansing, by seeking out old relationships with loved ones that may have gone astray during the year. Getting rid of toxic people and energy is also a common preparatory tradition among the Chinese poeple who want to have an auspicious New Year.
Another tradition that is completed in preparation for the New Year is cleaning the family home. It is common practice to clean the house top to bottom, but leave the sweeping for the twenty third or twenty fourth, because that is when the Kitchen God is scheduled to depart. The Kitchen God will carry a report of the condition of the house up to heaven to the Jade Emperor. In hopes of not offending the Kitchen God, families will wait to move large, dusty pieces of furniture until after he has left, to avoid spewing dust everywhere and upsetting the him. After the we move into the New Year households are commonly left upswept for a few days, out of fear of sweeping good fortune out of the home.
Food ways are arguably the largest, and most complicated tradition surrounding the Chinese New Year. The Chinese belief system dictates what is eaten during specific days of this celebration.For example on New Years day only vegetarian foods are prepared. This practice is thought to cleanse the mind, body, and soul. This meal commonly consists of tofu, mushrooms, and bean curds. Additional vegetables like carrots and snow peas are included in the dishes to enhance the color.
The Reunion Dinner, which is served on the eve of the New Year, is the most important meal in the whole fifteen day celebration. The food served during this dinner has enormous symbolic meaning, it is believed that in order to have an auspicious New Year, the right foods need to be consumed. Family is at the forefront of importance in Chinese culture, but especially during the Reunion Dinner. In my research I found that the dinner will only commence when every family member is present and the last remaining member of the household is announced. Different families will prepare the dishes for this dinner in different ways, but there are some staple dishes. Chicken soup, stir-fried vegetables, roasted pork, and a whole fish, will more than likely be found at any Reunion Dinner. Foods like; mandarin oranges, long, uncut noodles, dumplings, and radish cake, are all foods that hold symbolic meaning but are not always consumed at the Reunion Dinner, but at other times during the celebration.
Gods, deities, and ancestors play a pivotal role in the New Year celebration. Food, wine, and money are left on the graves of ancestors. These offerings are to show ancestors the family is still faithful and has not neglected their duties to their ancestors. Sweet cakes and other decadent foods are prepared for the Kitchen God and offered, in hopes of getting a favorable report. Door Gods are also beings that see, and hear, everything that happens in the household throughout the year, and this information is believed to be brought up to the Jade Emperor. Gods, deities, and ancestors play an extremely important role in the New Year celebration, but they also play a large role in the daily lives of the Chinese society.
The most interesting concept I came across in my research, is the modernization of ancient Chinese New Year traditions. Since technology has become such an integral part of our modern society, it only makes sense there would start to be a shift towards more modern forms of ancient traditions. Red packets an ancient tradition that are often filled with money and given out as gifts. The purpose of the Red Packets are to bring you good luck in the New Year. In the last few years a popular Chinese messaging called WeChat has made this tradition available online. People can now send money in virtual red packets, putting a modern twist on an ancient tradition.
No matter how our world may change to keep up with our ever changing society, the meanings of the traditions and celebrations are still the same. The Chinese New Year is a time for family and friends to nurture there relationships, and ensure they have a prosperous New Year.