The Chinese New Year is now popularly known as the Spring Festival because it starts from the Beginning of Spring (the first of the twenty-four terms in coordination with the changes of Nature). Its origin is too old to be traced. Several explanations are hanging around. All agree, however, that the word Nian, which in modern Chinese solely means "year", was originally the name of a monster beast that started to prey on people the night before the beginning of a new year (Do not lose track here: we are talking about the new year in terms of the Chinese calendar).One legend goes that the beast Nian had a very big mouth that would swallow a great many people with one bite. People were very scared. One day, an old man came to their rescue, offering to subdue Nian. To Nian he said, "I hear say that you are very capable, but can you swallow the other beasts of prey on earth instead of people who are by no means of your worthy opponents?" So, swallow it did many of the beasts of prey on earth that also harassed people and their domestic animals from time to time.......
The Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year, is the most important traditional festival in China. It begins on the First Day of the first lunar month and ends on 15th. In 2011, Chinese New Year begins on February 3rd and ends on the 9th.Spring Festival is a very important occasion for the Chinese people, and it is a time for families to be together.So no matter how far away people are, they will try their best to go home and spend the festival with their families.Chinese New Year Celebration is the most important celebration of the year. Chinese people may celebrate the Chinese New Year in slightly different ways but their wishes are almost the same; they want their family members and friends to be healthy and lucky during next year.Chinese New Year Celebration usually lasts for 15 days. Celebratory activities include Chinese New Feast, firecrackers, giving lucky money to children, the New Year bell ringing and Chinese New Year Greetings. Most of Chinese people will stop the celebrating in their home on the 7th day of New Year because the national holiday usually ends around that day.
To clean houses on the New Year Even is a very old custom dating back to thousands of years ago. The dust is traditionally associated with “old” so cleaning their houses and sweeping the dust mean to bid farewell to the “old” and usher in the “new”. Days before the New Year, Chinese families clean their houses, sweeping the floor, washing daily things, cleaning the spider webs and dredging the ditches. People do all these things happily in the hope of a good coming year.
One of the house decorations is to post couplets on doors. On the Spring Festival couplets, good wishes are expressed. New Year couplets are usually posted in pairs as even numbers are associated with good luck and auspiciousness in Chinese culture.
People in north China are used to posting paper-cut on their windows. When sticking the window decoration paper-cuts, people paste on the door large red Chinese character "福". A red "福" means good luck and fortune...
Spring Festival is a time for family reunion. The New Year's Feast is "a must" banquet with all the family members getting together. The food eaten on the New Year Even banquet varies according to regions. In south China, It is customary to eat "niangao" (New Year cake made of glutinous rice flour) because as a homophone, niangao means "higher and higher every year". In the north, a traditional dish for the feast is "Jiaozi" or dumplings shaped like a crescent moon.
Lighting Firecrackers used to be one of the most important customs in the Spring Festival celebration. However, concerning the danger and the negative noises that lighting firecrackers may bring, the government has banned this practice in many major cities. But people in small towns and rural areas still hold to this traditional celebration. Right as the clock strike 12 o'clock midnight of New Year's Eve, cities and towns are lit up with the glitter from fireworks, and the sound can be deafening. Families stay up for this joyful moment and kids with firecrackers.
Shousui(守岁) means to stay up late or all night on New Year's Eve. It occurs when members of the family gather around throughout the night after the reunion dinner and reminisce about the year that has passed while welcoming the year that has arrived. Some believe that children who Shousui will increase the longevity of the parents.
"一夜连双岁，五更分二年" means that the night of New Year's Eve (which is also the morning of the first day of the New Year) is a night that links two years. "五更" (Wu Geng – the double hour from 0300 to 0500) is the time that separates the two years.
The first bell ringing is the symbol of Chinese New Year. Chinese people like to go to a large squares where there are huge bells are set up on New Year’s Eve. As the New Year approaches they count down and celebrate together. The people believe that the ringing of huge bell can drive all the bad luck away and bring the fortune to them. In recent years, some people have begun going to mountain temples to wait for the first ringing. Hanshan Temple in Suzhou, is very famous temple for its first ringing of the bell to herald Chinese New Year...
On the first day of the New Year or shortly thereafter, everybody wears new clothes and greets relatives and friends with bows and Gongxi (congratulations), wishing each other good luck, happiness during the new year. In Chinese villages, some villagers may have hundreds of relatives so they have to spend more than two weeks visiting their relatives.
On the first day of the new year, it’s customary for the younger generations to visit the elders, wishing them healthy and longevity.