How to Celebrate the Spring Festival in China
Spring Festival is an ancient festival in China and the most important one of the year. Customs and habits have been formed through thousands of years. And some of these are still followed today.
"On the 24th of the twelfth month of the lunar year, one should dust and sweep the house". According to Lü’s Commentaries of History, the custom of sweeping dust originated from the time of Yao and Shun in China. There's a folk saying: because the pronunciation of "dust" is similar to "old" in Chinese, sweeping dust for spring festival holds the meaning of "replacing the old with the new", with the purpose of getting rid of all the poverty and bad luck. This custom represents people's good wishes of replacing the old with the new, bidding farewell to the past, and embracing the future. Every year before the spring festival, every household must do all kinds of cleaning, wash all the containers, the bedding, and curtains, sprinkle water and sweep the yard, remove dust and spider webs, dredge the trenches. The merry atmosphere of happily cleaning, and expecting the new year is felt everywhere.
Putting on Spring Festival couplets
Spring Festival couplets are also called scrolls on the door, dual couplets, couplets, peach wood charm, etc. It is a distinctive Chinese literature form, describing the times and expressing good wishes, with neat, antithesis, simple, and exquisite words. Every year before the spring festival, no matter in the cities or villages, all the households select a pair of red spring festival couplets to put on the door, adding a festive atmosphere for the holiday. This custom dated back to the Song Dynasty and became popular in Ming Dynasty. In Qing Dynasty, the ideological and artistic aspects of the spring festival couplets were largely improved. The book on spring festival couplets compiled by Liang Zhangju, Introduction on Chinese Couplets, elaborated on the origin of Chinese couplets and the characteristics of various works.
There are a large variety of spring festival couplets. Categorized by where it's applied, there are the center of door scrolls, door frame scrolls, horizontal scrolls, spring strips, and squares, etc. Center of door scrolls are put on the upper central part of the door; door frame scrolls are put on both sides of the door frame; horizontal scrolls are put on the top of the door frame; spring strips according to the content are put on different places; squares are also called door leaf, mostly shaped like square or diamond, put on furniture or screen walls.
Shousui (staying up late or all night on New Year's Eve)
Shousui on New Year’s Eve is one of the most important customs of the spring festival, dated back to ancient times. The earliest recording of Shousui appeared on Fengtu Zhi, the chronicles of local customs and practices, written by Zhou Chu of the Western Jin Dynasty. It said, on New Year's eve, people gave each other gifts, called "presents of the year"; they treated each other with baijiu and food, called "bidding farewell to the year"; the elderly and the young celebrated and drank together, saying good wishes, called "dividing the old year and the new year"; people stay up all night till dawn, called "shousui".
Give new year's greetings
On the first day of the lunar new year, people would get up early, put on the finest clothes, looking the best, and call on their relatives and friends, saying new year's greetings, wishing each other all the best in the new year. There are different ways of giving new year's greetings, sometimes the head of the larger family would lead many people to call on different households, sometimes colleagues would make social calls together, sometimes people gather to greet each other, called group greetings. Because visiting people from door to door was time-consuming and troublesome, some upper class, scholars, and officials sent cards to each other, which gradually became New Year's cards of today. When giving greetings for the New Year, the children should greet the elderly first, wishing the elderly longevity and good health. The elderly could give the children money as gifts. It's said that the gift money could suppress evil because "year" and "evil" sound similar in Chinese, the children can go through the year safely and sound protected by the money.