The new year passed days ago, but the Chinese New Year is yet to come. Chinese people often spend quite a lot of time, say 16 days from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival celebrating this event. This is because in Chinese culture, Chinese New Year is a major event that marks a new start.
If you live in China or near any Chinese community, you can see Chinese people are cleaning up, shopping for new clothes, and decorating their houses. There’s a lot to do before the Lunar New Year as Chinese people have a variety of customs to follow. In today’s article, we’ll discover how Chinese people prepare for their biggest national holiday.
Cleaning up the house is a long-observed Chinese New Year tradition. “Out with the old, in with the new” that’s how Chinese people prepare to celebrate the biggest holiday of the year.
In China, people use the term 扫年 sǎo nián, which is literally translated to “sweep away the year,” to refer to the house cleaning-up. But the meaning behind the 扫年 sǎo nián practice goes beyond such activities as polishing the floor, repairing or discarding broken items, or decluttering the home.
In Chinese, 塵 chén (dust) is pronounced exactly the same as 陈 chén (old). That explains why Chinese people are eager to tackle spring cleaning chores to sweep away not only the dust but also the bad luck and misfortune of the past year. At the same time, it opens space for all the new, good luck to enter and infuse your life.
If you’re having just a bad year (possibly because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic), give “cleaning up the house” a try. It may wash away bad luck and bring in good fortune for you.
After giving your house a new breath of fresh air, it’s time to go shopping for a new start. Chinese people will shop for new clothes, food, and gifts for relatives. Also, they will need decorations for the Chinese New Year Festival.
Here are some must-buy items for Chinese New Year:
- Home supplies
- Fruits :
- Oranges and tangerines (symbolize luck and success)
- Pineapples (associated with money-making endeavors)
- Kumquat tree (embodies good fortune and blessings)
- Flowering plants (express wealth and prosperity)
- Tea (Chinese people love tea! More to the point, Chinese fondness of tea is more a spiritual demand than a physical one.)
- Red envelopes (a traditional gift for children or elderly people during Chinese New Year)
- Chinese couplets
- Paper cuttings
- Chinese knots
The spring festival is one of the biggest sale seasons of the year. During this time, retail stores and e-commerce shops give out to their customers dozens of deals as a way to boost sales. As a result, Chinese consumers open up their wallets and spend big on shopping. The average expenses on Spring Festival range between 500 and 2000 yuan (approximately $80 – $315). But there’s also a large population who pay higher between 2000 and 5000 yuan (equivalent to $315 – $780).
Decorating the house
What’s next after a shopping craze? It’s time to roll up your sleeves, unload your shopping stuff, and start decorating.
1. Door couplets
Couplets that carry messages of prosperity, good fortune, and good health are typically pasted on the main entrance door to your house. The couplets include two vertical scrolls on two sides and a horizontal scroll on the top.
The custom of pasting Spring Festival couplets traced back over 1,000 years to the Later Shu Dynasty (934 – 965). The original form of modern couplets was called “Taofu,” a piece of peach wood protecting against evil without having any script on it. It was not until the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) that the wood board was replaced by paper, and people started to write wishes on it.
2. The “Fu” character
The character 福 Fu (blessing or good fortune) is used to express people’s yearning for a happy life, as well as wishes for a better future. Given that, Chinese people often paste this character on the gates or some furniture in the house during the Chinese New Year.
But instead of pasting the “Fu” upright, Chinese people hang it upside down. And this practice is widely accepted among Chinese people. One explanation is that the character for “upside-down” 倒 dào, is a homonym of the character for “to arrive,” 到 dào. In other words, when 福 Fu is placed upside down, it means the happiness or fortune is arriving.
3. Chinese knots
Another ornament that is used for house decoration during the Chinese New Year is Chinese knots. Chinese knots are believed to be a good luck charm; therefore, Chinese people often hang them around their house to attract good luck.
Though Chinese knots can be weaved using different colors such as gold, green, blue, or black, red is the most common and popular color. As we know, red is very important in Chinese culture, because it symbolizes fortune and wealth. As a result, Chinese people prefer red knots for special occasions rather than knots coming in other colors.
4. Door gods picture
The Chinese traditional religion is polytheistic, and Chinese people tend to believe that gods invisibly live among humans. As a result, Chinese people have many gods to worship to protect them from evil, bring them more luck, or even grant them well-lived lives.
In Taoism and ancient folk customs, the Gods of the Door are among the most popular gods. Chinese people believe that the Door gods live in the doors of every family, protecting their homes and preventing ghosts and evil spirits from entering their homes. During the Spring Festival, Chinese people often paste new portraits of Door gods, indicating the changing of new clothes for the Door Gods in the new year and showing their gratitude to them.
The bottom line
With a long list of traditions and customs, it’s no surprise that Chinese people have to go through many steps to prepare for the Chinese New Year. From cleaning to shopping and decorating, every task takes up time and true dedication. But it’ll pay off eventually with fortunes and blessings.
If you’re interested in Chinese culture, history, or language, find more posts like this on Pandanese. Pandanese is a Chinese learning platform that helps users learn Chinese easily by employing mnemonics and Spaced Repetition System (SRS). We encourage you to check out our blog and read as much as you like about language and culture topics before starting your learning!
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