Spring Festival, 春节 (Chūnjié), also known as Chinese New Year, is just around the corner. During this time of year, people of many different walks of life, from students to migrant workers, all suddenly have the same aim: to travel back to their hometown to celebrate Spring Festival with their loved ones. Without question, this is the single most important holiday in China. So why is Spring Festival so important to the Chinese people and what does the culture associate with Spring Festival? Let’s take a look at four topics, which will help you better understand Spring Festival.
1. 春运 (chūnyùn)
春运 (chūnyùn) is a composite word in Chinese, combining the characters 春 (chūn) from 春节 (Chūnjié) and the 运 (yùn) from 运输 (yùnshù), which means “transportation.” Put together, 春运 (chūnyùn) means “Spring Festival travel.” 春运 (chūnyùn) is a very unique Chinese phenomenon and stands as the largest yearly migration of people in China. During 春运 (chūnyùn), every railway station in China is completely packed with massive amounts of travelers and luggage. Because there are so many travelers, estimated of up to hundreds of millions, for many people, 春运 (chūnyùn) means waiting in long lines, sometimes for an entire day, hoping to buy a ticket. The public transportation system in China has made improvements, such as booking tickets online, but to this day traveling during 春运 (chūnyùn) continues to be a laborious endeavor.
2. 春晚 (chūnwǎn)
春晚 (chūnwǎn) is the name of a television special which airs every year on the eve before Chinese New Year. It is produced by China Central Television (CCTV). In English, this TV special is called CCTV New Year’s Gala. The Gala is essentially a variety show, consisting of comedy sketches, singing, dancing, magic, and acrobatics and so on. Famous celebrities often appear in the show, such as Jackie Chan, Jay Chou, Faye Wong and so on. The first CCTV New Year’s Gala aired in 1983, and since has gained so much popularity that it’s now the most viewed show in the world. Every year, families come together to eat, laugh, and watch the Gala. Long after Spring Festival has come and gone, people will still be talking about the show.
3. 春联 (chūnlián)
对联 (duìlián) means “couplet,” or a pair of short poems. During Spring Festival, it’s a tradition to paste couplets on the outside of one’s doors. 春联 (chūnlián) is the term for “spring festival couplets.” These are poems that usually deal with spring and happy wishes for the new year. Spring festival couplets are written on scrolls of red paper in black ink. Each scroll reflects a family’s personal interests, aspirations, wishes, and goals. The most popular themes in a spring couplet are 福 (fú, happiness); 禄 (lù, wealth); and 寿 (shòu, longevity).
4. 压岁钱 (yāsuìqián)
压岁钱 (yāsuìqián) is one of the biggest reasons why children look forward to Spring Festival. In the Song Dynasty, adults gave children coins wrapped in red paper; these coins were meant to protect the children from evil for that year. Nowadays, the tradition has continued and children receive 红包 (hóngbāo, red envelopes) filled with 压岁钱 (yāsuìqián, lucky money). People’s living standard has risen in recent times and lucky money can be filled with as much as hundreds even thousands of Yuan.
Have you ever heard or seen any of the terms above? If, by chance, you are currently in China, wait for a few days and you’ll gradually begin seeing all of the above. In our next issue, we’ll continue talking about keywords relating to Spring Festival.
1. Usually, which theme would not be in a spring festival couplet? _______
2. What does 春晚 (chūnwǎn) mean? _______
A. The CCTV Evening of Spring
B. The CCTV New Year’s Gala
C. The CTTV Festival Show
3. Why do adults give children money as a New Year’s gift? ______
A. Because they are rich.
B. Because they want to give kids pocket money.
C. Because it’s tradition to protect children from evil.