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CHINA STORY | The Spring Festival: A Time to Pay Homage to Our Traditions


26 January 2017 | By Guo Zhen (郭桢) | Supervised by Li Mei (李梅) | Copyedited by Gu Yiqing

  • 2017: Year of Rooster

    For most Chinese, it is not January the first but the Spring Festival in the first month of the lunar calendar that marks the beginning of a new year.

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or most Chinese, it is not January the first but the Spring Festival in the first month of the lunar calendar that marks the beginning of a new year.

The festival preparations usually start one month earlier. For some Chinese families, a thorough cleaning of the house is a must and meant to get rid of all the bad fortune of the past year. To add an air of festivity, almost every household has their home decorated with red lanterns or fresh flowers (sometimes with plastic or silk flowers). Various ingredients have been in store for cooking delicacies. Some people go for shopping with a long list of gifts for their beloved families and friends. With everything done, “home-dwellers” are waiting for the big moment when every family member comes back for the New Year reunion. Those who study or work outside their hometowns have packed and got merged into the Spring Migration floods, battering a way home by bus, train or air. The train tickets are sold out online within seconds, not to mention many non-Internet users queuing up for hours outside the railway station with joy and expectation. No matter how travel-torn they are, going back home is the most earnest thought of most Chinese people before the Spring Festival.

The climax of the Spring Festival comes at the New Year’s Eve, a night fantastically celebrated in the whole nation and the whole world where there are Chinese descendants. Early in the morning, men of every family put up red couplets on both sides of the doorway and hang up red lanterns which symbolize the light of hope. Well-dressed women have got up even earlier to prepare for the most important dinner of the year. This is a time when all people are relieved from their busy work and enjoy the precious traditional festival with their family; they are chatting and laughing together while making dumplings. When the night falls, people get seated with their dearest and beloved family members around a table groaning with food, toasting while appreciating the New Year Gala on TV. The joy dispels all pains and hardships of the past year and it seems that all efforts and endeavors are worthwhile. At the midnight, thousands upon thousands of families come out to light the fireworks and make a New Year wish.

After the New Year’s Eve, it is time for people to visit relatives and friends. The New Year conversations are often full of greetings and wishes, and of course dotted with constant enquiries into one’s study, career, marriage and other private matters. The elders never feel tired to preach their traditional values and life experiences to the young who listen courteously though with new ideas in their mind. Back at home, young people may poke fun at the topics such as the necessity of arranged dating and the advantages of getting married early, but they would not resist going back next year again to give their New Year blessings to the respectable elders.

Technology has changed our way of celebrating the Spring Festival. Telecommunication and social networking are super-active during the festival, such as sending creative text messages and we-chat emoji as New Year greetings. Lucky money can be dispatched virtually to friends and relatives, which has given rise to a fashion of online “red-enveloped snatching”.

No matter how many modern elements have been integrated into the celebrations, for us Chinese, the Spring Festival is perpetually an occasion to pay homage to the traditions as well a time for family bonds and reunions. Accompanied by the most important people in our life, we wave to the old year and wish for a healthy, wealthy and prosperous new year.

This is one of the featured articles by SES Writing Workshop. The author, Guo Zhen, 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