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Chinese New Year_Feed This God in Your Kitchen for a Good Year

Feb. 12, 2021

The Chinese Lunar New Year is also known as the Spring Festival because it starts at the beginning of spring. It is the most important festival in China and is traditionally a time for family reunions. Many of China’s ethnic minorities celebrate their Lunar New Year around the same time as the Han people, although some maintain their own calendars.

The Chinese new year in 2021 is Friday, February 12 and celebrations culminate with the Lantern Festival on February 26th.
“春节 (chūn jié) Spring Festival” celebrations last up to 16 days, but only the first 7 days are considered a public holiday (February 11th–17th, 2021).
春节 (chūn jié) = Spring Festival

春 (chūn) = spring season

节 (jié) = festival

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Remember that China is a very big country with different traditions and cuisines so New Years’ celebrations will vary as well. There are a few activities and customs that are followed by nearly all regions, however.

Most Chinese families have a big “年夜饭 (nián yè fàn ) Dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve”. But they also feed one other dubious character in order to bring in the New Year favorably. Who is this character? Why the Kitchen God, of course!

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The character “年 (nián)” means year; “夜 ()” means night and “饭 (fàn)” means meal.

Example:
Jīn  nián chūn  jié,    wǒ  men  yào   qù   nǎi  nai   jiā   chī  nián  yè  fàn.
今    年      春    节,我     们     要   去    奶    奶    家   吃    年   夜    饭。
We will go to my grandparents’ place to have the New Year’ eve dinner for
this year’s spring festival.

One very fascinating custom is to make “年糕 (Nián gāo) New Year sticky rice cake” and preferably feed a bit to the “灶王 (Zào  wáng) Kitchen God” to bribe him [or stick his mouth closed], so when he reports to the “玉皇 (Yù  huáng)
Jade Emperor” about you over the past year he won’t say anything bad. For Mandarin speakers, 年糕 (Nián gāo) is also a pun for 年高 (Nián gāo), 糕 (cake) and 高 (high) being pronounced identically.

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During the Spring Festival, you can say:
Zhù   nǐ   chūn  jié   kuài  lè!
祝    你     春    节     快     乐!
Wishing you a happy Spring Festival!

祝 (zhù) = wish

你 () = you

春 (chūn) = spring
节 (jié) = festival
快乐 (kuài lè) = happy

There are particular superstitions, traditions, ceremonies, and other activities that go along with preparing for and celebrating the Chinese New Year. There are many and they each have significance ranging from Chinese homophones to importance related to lucky and unlucky numbers. These include”

●No gifting sharp objects, clocks, shoes, pears, umbrellas, or other taboo gifts. Most of these objects form homophones with unfavorable words in the Chinese language and carry inauspicious words such as separating or dying or their associated rituals.
●Gifting oranges, candies, money “红包(hón gbāo) red envelope” in even numbers and preferably incorporating the number 8 which is considered lucky. However never gift things in quantities of 4 since 4 sounds like the character for death.
●Avoid wearing white (which relates to death) during festivities. Wearing colorful clothes, especially red, is encouraged. In modern times, it has become popular for performers to wear western suits, so they may wear a red tie.
●Clean the house before New Year. You don’t want to wash away your fortunes.
●No cutting hair, fingernails, or other things during the first few days. Washing hair on the first day is also not a good idea.
●Avoid talking about death or ghosts.
●Stick “春联 (chūn lián) Spring Festival couplets” upside down on your door or window. It’s a pun: “倒” (upside-down) is pronounced identically to “到” (arrival) in Chinese so by sticking something upside down you are welcoming it.

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Traditional superstitions, followed by some but lost by others, depending on the region:
●Eat vegetarian foods on the first day. Killing animals on this day will affect your own longevity.
●No use of knives on the first day. Cut your vegetables the day before and store them.
●No buying of books during the festival. Books sound like the Chinese word for “lose”.
●No throwing away garbage from day 1 to day 4. It would signify throwing away your fortune as well. Garbage can be thrown away starting from the 5th day. Until then, any garbage must be put in a corner, not thrown away. Best, reuse/recycle/reduce your use of anything that could become garbage during these days.
●Likewise, no sweeping of floors from day 1 to day 4. You should have done that before day 1.
●Though modern people will avoid talking about death and ghosts, more traditional people will engage in strict avoidance of pronouncing the character 死 (death) from at least the evening before day 1 to the end of day 4 even if they aren’t talking about death. Some extend this all the way to day 15 and with any activities related to the New Year.
●Days 3-4 are not good days to visit friends.
●Day 15 (元宵 Yuan xīao) is a good day to find a love partner if you’re single. This day has (in addition to eating rice balls and hanging lanterns) traditionally been a sort of Valentine’s Day since at least the Tang Dynasty when the emperors would lift the curfew temporarily for a few days so people could dance the night away.
●One legend has it that hanging lanterns and “放鞭炮 (fàng biānpào) setting off firecrackers” on day 15 is actually of superstitious origin to make the “ 玉皇(Yù  huáng) Jade Emperor”, who is angry at this time and wants to set the Earth on fire, think that the Earth is already on fire so he can be satisfied and not actually set the Earth on fire. This is only one of many legends surrounding “元宵 (Yuán xiāo) Lantern Festival”.

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If you haven’t guessed already, Chinese culture takes homophones and numbers seriously. Non-vegetarians especially in Southeast Asia may focus on eating fish at some point because 餘 (abundance) is pronounced like 魚 (fish); 年年有魚 (Every year has fish) sounds like 年年有餘 (May every year be abundant).

You May Want to Learn More About Chinese traditional festival :
“The Mid-Autumn Festival Moon Has the Power to Reunite Family”
“Don’t Say Happy Dragon Boat Festival!”
“It’s Tradition! Test Your Chinese Festival Knowledge Here”

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