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CHINA STORY | The Chinese Spring Festival: A Merging of Tradition and Modernity


26 January 2017 | By Zou Rui(邹锐)| Supervised by Li Mei (李梅) | Copyedited by Gu Yiqing

  • Chinese Spring Festival

    However time has changed, the Spring Festival always provides us Chinese people an unusual opportunity to be reunited with our families.

T

he Spring Festival to us Chinese is what Christmas means to the westerners. Almost all employees and workers have seven days off in this festival which indeed starts from the Spring Festival Eve and ends on the 15th day of the first month of the New Year in the lunar calendar.

Legend has it that the Spring Festival originated in the Shang Dynasty (about 1600 B. C.—1046 B. C.) when people succeeded in fighting against a brutal monster named Nian. The traditional customs of having family reunions, decorating the houses all in red and setting off firecrackers symbolize Chinese people’s attempts to drive away the monster. As time goes by, this traditional festival blends with new changes in the fast developing modern society.

Every year, millions upon millions of migrant employees and students leave metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, heading home for a family reunion as the Spring Festival approaches. This is the largest-scale annual human migration in the world. Birds may be faced with predation risks and energy consumption only along their bumpy trips, but these Chinese people suffer from all kinds of tribulation even before their journey to home.

Before their migration, people go to every length and try to purchase train tickets due to the fact that the demand for tickets greatly exceeds the supply. Train tickets can be bought at stations or on the Internet now. In order to secure a train ticket, they must keep their eyes on the computer screen for the whole day and night while at school or at work. Traveling on a train, they have to endure transportation problems such as uncomfortable conditions and poor railway services. But in the end, all the pain pays off. After the long and exhausting journey, people arrive at their home, and enjoy a domestic holiday without heavy work or study load. A thorough cleaning of the home is a must and with the whole family’s efforts. Dusting implies that the bad luck of the past year has been swept away. Red Spring couplets with lucky messages are pasted on the sides of the door or gate high above which are hanged red lanterns to light up the coming year.

Certainly, people do not forget “renewing” themselves at the time to ring the old year out and the new year in. A New Year bath must be taken in some places. As you can imagine, “renewing” often comes with a wish for new items. New clothes have been prepared, especially for kids, while stylish furniture may take the place of the old piece. At this time, the meanest person will be most generous; people are willing to spend more for the festival. The booming business before the advent of the Spring Festival can be comparable to the commercial mania on the western Black Friday. Most stores and shopping malls offer a big sale and invite frenzied customers. Even children are expecting to “gain” — on the New Year’s Eve, they receive red envelopes from parents and relatives with lucky money inside which convey best wishes from the loving adults. With the popularity of the social network Wechat, they also get electronic red envelops on this networking app. People enjoy a hard-won one-way deal — much money out, more happiness in.

The most classic scene should be a family reunion feast on the New Year’s Eve. The whole family sits around a table and tastes the home-made dishes, chatting about everything that happened in the past year. Of course, the old generation will never give up such a golden opportunity to “gossip” about the young’s romance: whether they have a boyfriend or a girlfriend; how their relationship develops; when they plan to get married… Frowning at the nagging questions, the young have no choice but to give free rein to their own good intelligence. It is really “a battle without gunpowder” for the whole family to strengthen the bonds of family love. After the dinner, people sit together and watch the annual Spring Festival Gala run by China Central Television. Although the gala seems to have been out of date for young Chinese, they are willing to laugh together with their family, feeling the peace and warmth of their sweet home.

However time has changed, the Spring Festival always provides us Chinese people an unusual opportunity to be reunited with our families. We observe the traditions and get ourselves ready for another busy year. The New Year traditions may have changed, but the significance of the Spring Festival remains unchangeable.

 

This is one of the featured articles by SES Writing Workshop. The author, Zou Rui, is an undergraduate student of the School of English Studies, Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). The supervisor, Li Mei, is a lecturer of English at SISU. Her research areas are English-Chinese contrastive linguistics, discourse analysis and language teaching. 

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Press Contact

SISU News Center, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Tel : +86 (21) 3537 2378

Email : news@shisu.edu.cn

Address :550 Dalian Road (W), Shanghai 200083, China

Further Reading