BY SILVI WRITER
It’s a day to fight off the demon, using firecrackers
According to a Chinese legend, there was a demon named Nian (年). It would come about every New Year’s Eve.
Most people would hide in their homes. But one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. The next day, people celebrated their survival by setting off even more firecrackers. It’s why that practice became a crucial part of the Spring Festival.
It’s also why celebrating the Spring Festival is also call Guo Nian (过年), literally means to “pass over Nian” or “overcome Nian.
The most fireworks are set off in the world that night
Firecrackers are supposed to scare off Nian, and bad luck too. So people stay up on Chinese New Year’s Eve and set off firecrackers at midnight. In the morning, firecrackers are used again to welcome the new year and good luck.
That same night, families also burn fake paper money and printed gold bars in honor of their deceased loved ones.
The indisputably largest human migration in the world
The most important tradition of the festival season is the family reunion. Everyone should come back home for the New Year’s Eve dinner, the most important dinner in the whole year.
Following China’s urbanisation and economic growth, huge numbers of young people have moved to larger towns and cities to work and settle down there, living elderly parents live in rural villages. The migration back home before each Chinese New Year is called Chunyun (春运), or the Spring Festival Travel Rush.
Nearly 3 billion trips are expected to be made within 40 days in China, as the country of 1.4 billion people kicked off on Jan 21 this year’s Rush – the world’s largest annual human migration.
And there are some serious taboos…
Taboo 1: No hair-cut before February 2 on lunar calendar
The second day of the second lunar month in the lunar calendar is call “the Dragon Head-raising Day”. And it’s the day when hair-cut is finally allowed and encouraged!
The dragon, a prominent totem (a spirit being or sacred object) and auspicious image in Chinese folk culture, is believed to control such natural elements as wind and rain.
On this day, the dragons “raise their heads” (or awaken) at the rumbling sound of thunder, a sign of upcoming rains that will revitalize the earth. Around this time, the earth is bursting with life, grass and trees are turning green and farmers are ready to plow the fields.
During the day, people usually choose to get their hair cut in a symbolic move to ditch the past and embrace the future. Another reason is that many Chinese still believe that if people, especially children, cut their hair during the first lunar month, they will bring misfortune even death to their mother’s brothers.
Taboo 2: No sweeping or throwing out garbage allowed!
Sweeping and throwing out garbage isn’t allowed before the 5th in some places in China. This is to make sure you don’t wash away the good luck!
On the other hand, there’s a day before the Spring Festival dedicated to cleaning. This day is to sweep the bad luck away and make room for the good.
Children receive lucky money in red envelopes
In addition to new clothes and shoes, children receive something else too — red envelopes. Depending on the family, the children can get up 1000 yuan (around US$150) per envelope.
This money is supposed to help transfer fortune from the elders to the children. They can also be given between bosses and employees, co-workers, and friends.
With the development of technology, digital red pockets are the trend now. People like to send one into group chats and watch the others fight for the money. This is called qiang hongbao (抢红包), or literally “snatching red pockets”.
It’s a day when nearly the whole country eats dumplings at night
Most families eat dumplings during the New Year’s Eve dinner, some for the first breakfast. Some eat them in the mid-night, once when the clock arm passes the 12:00 am of the New Year’s Day, or the first day of lunar calendar.
But dumplings aren’t more popular in northern China than in the south. In some southern parts of the country, people would rather eat spring rolls (egg rolls) and balls of glutinous rice in soup called Tangyuan (汤圆).
Pig may be the most popular zodiac animal
Western horoscopes include 12 zodiacs, one for each month. There are 12 Chinese zodiacs as well, but the animal is for the entire year.
They are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
2019 is the year of the Pig. As a zodiac, its positive traits are bestowed on people born that year. People born in the year of the pig are believed to be more prosperous and no need to worry about food supply.
So don’t be surprised if China sees another year of baby booming in the coming year.
Your zodiac year is bad luck
Your benming year (本命年) is the year of your zodiac animal. And of the 12 year cycle, it is the unluckiest for you.
There are multiple explanations for this. The Chinese believe that children can easily be taken by demons. And your benming year is your rebirth year.
During this year, your weapon of defense is the color red. Just as you can decorate your home in red for protection and fortune, you can also wear red clothing, underwear and socks in particular. Many people will wear red underwear every day of the year. Others add on red shirts, pants, jewelry, insoles and more!
The Spring Festival is celebrated all around the world
It is celebrated by at least 20 percent of the world, as one out of every five people in the world is Chinese. But that stat doesn’t include the millions of overseas Chinese and people of Chinese descent.
London, San Francisco, Sydney, Vancouver all claim to have the biggest Spring Festival celebrations outside of Asia.
It’s the most important holiday in China and to Chinese people all over.