Days before the New Year, every family is busy giving its house a thorough cleaning, hoping to sweep away all the ill fortune to make way for the in-coming good luck. People also give their doors and windowpanes a new coat of paint, usually red in color. They decorate the doors and windows with paper-cuts and couplets with the very popular theme of “happiness”,”wealth”,”longevity” and “satisfactory marriage with more children”.
On the 24 th day of the last lunar month sacrifices are to be offieredÂ to the Kitchen God, for he returns to heaven to give a report the Jade Emperor (who is the ruler of heaven in Chnese mythology) about the family’s activatives over the past year.
This day is marked by acts of appearsements to the Kitchen god so that he will give a favorable report. Traditionally images of the Kitchen god are burned as a symbolic act of departure. From the 24th the Kitchen god will be absent from his shrine in the kitchen, and during this time it will be cleaned in preparation for his return on New Year’s Eve.
During the build up to Chinese New Year, Gate Gods are placed on the external doors of houses. This is a tradition which can be dated back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). The legend says two generals, Qin Qiong and Yuchi Gong, stood guard against ghosts outside the Emperor Taizong’s bedroom. In their eagerness to share the protection of these ‘Gate Gods’, the common people made their paitings and placed them on doors. The tradition has continued ever since.
The eve of the New Year is very carefully observed. Supper is a feast, with all members coming together. Light will be kept on the whole night. At midnight, fireworks will light up the whole sky and firecrackers make everywhere seem lik a war zone. People’s excitement reaches its climaz.
Very early the next morning, children greet their parents and receive their lucky money in red packets. The symbolic giving of the money represents a wish for fortune in the coming year. Then, the family starst out to say greetings from door to door, first to their relatives and the their neighbors.
During and several days following the New Year’s day, people visit each other, with a great deal of exchanging of gifts. The New Year atmospher is brought to an anti-climax fifteen days when the Latern Festival sets in. It is a occasion of lantern shows and folk dance everywhere. One typical food is the Tang Yuan, a kind of dumpling made of sweet rice rolled into balls and stuffed with sweet fillings.
The Lantern Festival marks the end of the New Year season and afterwards life begins and daily routine again. Yet, the spirit underlying is the same: a sincere wish of peace and happiness for the family members and friends.
By the way, according to Chinese Lunar Calendar, 2007 is the “Gold Pig Year”.
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