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Chinese Spring Festival 2015-02-15 오후 10:11:00

Rainbow-colored jeogoris, kites flying high in the sky---just in children’s songs we can see traditional New Year customs in Korea. It is always exciting to think of all the food and activities we enjoy during the holiday, as well as spending time with family and relatives. Now that the New Year is coming, have you ever wondered what would the view be like in other countries? Here, let us take a look at what the New Year means to people in China.

The Chinese Spring Festival, or Chunjie(春节), is the Chinese counterpart of “Sullal”, the lunar new year in Korea. On this traditional holiday, Chinese families gather to give thanks to their ancestors and wish for a happy new year, just like we do.

The history of the Chinese New Year goes back to about 4,000 years ago, when Emperor Shun(舜) performed ancestral rites. There is also a popular myth about this holiday. The story goes: a monster called Nian(年) came out of the woods every year; to avoid its attack, families gathered at home, locked the doors, and stayed up all night praying for their safety. To this day, Chinese families have dinner together on New Year’s Eve and stay awake through the night to welcome the new year. Later, “Chunjie” became an official Chinese holiday in 1949.

Traditionally, the Chinese Spring Festival starts on a day called “Xiaonian(小年)”, about a week before New Year’s Day. People prepare for the celebration by sweeping off the dust(尘, chen) at home, in hopes of getting rid of the old(陈, chen) things along with all the bad luck(notice how the pronunciation is the same). Next, they write New Year’s greetings on pieces of red paper and put these “chunlian(春联)”s around their doors. The character “fu(福)” in red as well as lucky pictures are also put up on display in every home. On New Year’s Eve, families have dinners called “nianyefan(年夜饭)”, and perform rituals at midnight. After that is the time for the fireworks to light up the night sky and fill the air with deafening bursts. At this point, everybody is filled with excitement and joy. The morning comes; families and neighbors wish one another a Happy New Year, and children receive money in red envelopes, called “yasuiqian(压岁钱)”. For the rest of the festival, people enjoy the holiday and perform various ceremonies that are believed to bring good luck. After the Chinese Lantern Festival, the holiday comes to a close.

The Chinese make dumplings and spring rolls during the Spring Festival. They also enjoy fish(yu, 鱼) for abundance(yu, 余), and rice cakes(gao, 糕) for progress towards higher(gao, 高) goals. On Laba Festival(腊八节), people eat Laba soup(腊八粥); during the Chinese Lantern Festival, people eat Tangyuans(汤圆) made out of glutinous rice.

Nowadays, watching the TV program “Chunwan(春晚, 春节联欢晚会)” has become a new tradition of the Spring Festival. This show started in 1983 on CCTV, and every New Year’s Eve celebrities perform on stage in celebration of the New Year. Last year, Korean actor Lee Min-Ho performed on this show. Chunwan has recorded the highest viewing rate, the longest running time(about 4.5hrs), and the most performance staffs—of all TV shows in the world! For 2015, the show has created a new feature to look forward to: a mascot. This year, it is a sheep called “Yangyang(阳阳)”, since we are welcoming the year of the sheep according to the Chinese zodiac.

Meanwhile, “nianyefan”, the New Year’s Eve dinner, is a changing feature of the Chinese New Year. While the majority of Chinese families still prefer to follow the tradition of preparing and eating the meal at home, some people like to eat out at hotels or restaurants. In addition to family reunions, people also attend dinner parties with friends and colleagues. Among those who eat at home, some buy half-finished meals on the internet in order to save time and effort while cooking.

As we can see, the Chinese Spring Festival is full of interesting customs and traditional foods with profound meanings, giving everyone an exciting head start on the new year. All these creative ways of expressing hope and blessing all account for the wisdom of the Chinese, which has been passed on generation to generation. Just like any other year, every train station and airport in China is now crowded with travelers heading home. Let us all wish everyone a safe journey, and hope for a happy new year.

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상해한국학교
최하영
 
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