The first day of the first lunar month every year (which generally falls between the last 10-day period of January and the first 10-day period of February)
All over the country
The Spring Festival originate from the “Zha Sacrifice” in the primitive society and came into being in the early Xia Dynasty (ca. 21st-16th century B.C.). After a year’s farm work, the Chinese ancestors held an activity to offer sacrifices to gods and ancestors and celebrate a good harvest at the end of an old year. Now the Spring Festival, which falls on the first day of the first lunar month, has become the most important traditional festival of the Chinese nation. It was called the New Year’s Day in ancient times, meaning the beginning of a new year. In modern times, China adopts the Gregorian calendar, and takes the first day of January as the New Year’s Day and the first day of the first lunar month as the Spring Festival, which falls around the Beginning of Spring, the first of the twenty-four solar terms.
Before the Spring Festival every year, the people are very active to do shopping to buy necessities for the lunar New Year, make new clothes, thoroughly clean houses, paste New Year pictures and paper scrolls bearing auspicious antithetical couplet in the house, offer sacrifices to Kitchen God, enjoy a family reunion, stay up all night to “see the year out,” have a sumptuous dinner on the Spring Festival Eve, eat laba porridge (which is prepared with cereals, beans, nuts and dried fruit), and so on. During the Spring Festival, people pay New Year calls on relatives and friends, set off firecrackers, drink wine, and eat niangao (sticky sweet glutinous rice pudding). jiaozi (dumplings with meat and vegetable stuffing) and spring pancakes, enjoying themselves to their hearts’content. All these customary activities during the festival have been inherited and evolved from various kinds of ancient ceremonies for praying for good fortune over the past thousands of years, and each of them has special historical significance.
During the Spring Festival, all the doors are pasted with Spring Festival couplets, highlighting Chinese calligraphy with black characters on red paper. At the beginning, the Spring Festival couplets were called taofu, (peachwood charms against evil), which were hung on the gate on tb lunar New Year’s Eve to ward off evils and ghosts. Later peachwood charms were replaced by paper, on which auspicious words were written. Legend has it that during the reign of Emperor Taizu Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398) of the Ming Dynasty, taofu was formally replaced by Spring Festival couplets, and Emperor Taizu of the Ming wrote Spring Festival couplets in person. Since then, the custom of sticking on couplets on doors before the lunar New Year has been handed down to this very day. “Seeing the year out” is another important activity on the lunar New Year’s Eve. After a sumptuous dinner, all the family members stay up all night, enjoying pleasant chats and games to welcome a new year. This custom aims to bid farewell to the old and usher in the new.
The food and snacks for the Spring Festival contain special auspicious significance and are different from place to place. For instance, niangao (New Year cake), which symbolizes having good luck in everything and getting promotion year by year, is a must for every Chinese family in the lunar New Year. However in north China, the local people make gaotuo (cooked wheaten food) and glutinous millet cakes for the festival; in south China, shuimo niangao (New Year cake made from finely ground glutinous rice flour); in southwest China, glutinous rice cakes; and in Taiwan, red bean cakes. Jiaozi (dumplings with meat and vegetable stuffing) is traditional food for the people in north China. In the shape of the shoe-shaped gold ingot, jiaozi has an auspicious meaning of “bringing in money and treasure.”
In addition, various kinds of temple fairs are held during the Spring Festival, while people do dragon and lion dances, perform yangge dances, and appreciate decorated lanterns to ring out the old and ring in the new, see poverty off and welcome wealth, ward off diseases and evils and pray for a good harvest and good luck in the coming year. Therefore, travel agencies throughout the country organize various kinds of tourist activities during the Spring Festival every year.