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Beijing Impression of Spring Festival 2009

As the year 2008 of Rat is going and the year 2009 of Ox is coming, Beijing will soon be in Spring Festival fever again. As Chinese New Year is the time for family reunion in China, people living away will return home, just like Christmas in the West. Let’s take a look at the capital in Spring Festival fever — all around the city…
Impression 1: Red lanterns Everywhere

During Chinese New Year, Beijing is definitely in Spring Festival mode. Everything red… fitting for the capital of China! Big Red Lanterns are hung from the trees or out of buildings during the Chinese New Year celebrations everywhere in Beijing.

Impression 2: Spring Festival Couplets & Chinese Character "Fu"

During the Spring Festival of every year, all families in both urban and rural areas traditionally handpick a pair of Spring Festival couplets to paste on the door, adding some joyous atmosphere to the festival.

During the Spring Festival, every household usually sticks posters of various sizes bearing the Chinese character "Fu"(meaning "good fortune") on doors and walls. The character is a symbol of happiness, bliss and fortune. Sticking the poster upside down means the arrival of luck, happiness, and prosperity, because the Chinese word "Dao", or "upside down", sounds similar as "Dao", or "arrive".

Impression 3: Happiness of the New Year's Eve

Family Reunion Dinner of the New Year Eve

The night before the Spring Festival is traditionally called "New Year's eve". The dinner for the whole family on this day is called "New Year's Eve Dinner". Every family member is expected to return home for the dinner. For someone really can't make it, other family members will put an empty chair by the table and place an empty bowl and chopsticks on the table, indicating that he (she) is not forgotten.

Staying up the Whole Night on New Year's Eve

Legend has it that in ancient times, there was a monster called "nian" or "year" that would harm people. Later, people found out that the monster routinely came out on New Year's Eve, so people began to get together on this day, staying up and chatting, hoping for peaceful passage of the time. The custom of staying up on New Year's Eve started in the South and North Dynasties, when people would stay up by the candle or oil lamp on New Year's Eve. The custom symbolizes the warding off of all diseases and disasters, wishing for good luck in the New Year.

Gift Money to Children

The gift money to children is wrapped in red paper. During the Spring Festival, when children send their wishes to elder people, elder people are expected to give some gift money prepared before hand to the children, wishing them a peaceful year. The earliest gift money appeared in the Han Dynasty. It was not the money circulating at that time, but a coin-shaped talisman especially cast for wearing on the body or for adornment. The gift money reflects elder generations' good wishes for younger generations. It is a good Chinese tradition to give gift money to children during the Spring Festival.

Impression 4: Paying New Year Calls

The first day of the first lunar month is regarded as the New Year of the Chinese.Paying New Year calls is an important custom during the Spring Festival. On lunar New Year's Day, people visit friends and relatives, exchanging greetings and wishing them a happy new year in auspicious words. It is a way to ring out the Old Year and ring in the New Year and to send good wishes to one another.

Impression 5:Temple Fair

Temple fair was originally a showing activity entertaining the people by the Buddhism and Taoism organizations in order to transmit the tenet and increase votary, with the attractive recreation performance such as dances, drama and inspection tour, etc. With the secularization of the religious activities, the temple fair activities have been popularized and become active. The custom of holding regular temple fair can be found everywhere. And the contents of the temple fairs are slightly different in different places with their own features. Many large temple fairs are uncommonly busy, and there are many local operas playing besides the trading activities. Even in some small scaled temple fairs there are small drama shows such as shadow play and storytelling. Especially during the Spring Festival, the temple fairs in some important temples are hugely crowed with people who take the opportunity to burn incense and worship the Buddha and wish a good luck in a new year.

Impression 6:Firecrackers

Another joy of life in Beijing during the Spring Festival, is the no-longer-illicit pleasure of setting off fireworks.

Firecrackers are a special product of China. Exploding firecrackers is an important custom during the Spring Festival, dating back over 2,000 years. As the blasting sounds are perfect for creating joyous atmosphere, exploding firecrackers has become a recreational activity with national characteristics. Nowadays, apart from letting off firecrackers during the Spring Festival to welcome the New Year, people also like to explode them for celebrations on weddings, foundation-laying ceremonies and grand openings etc.

From: Foreigners in China 2009-1-27

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