06 February 2008

Pre-Spring Festival Festivities

On the days before the New Year celebration Chinese families give their home a thorough cleaning. There is a Cantonese saying "Wash away the dirts on ninyibaat"(年廿八,洗邋遢), but the practice is not usually restricted on ninyibaat(年二八, the 28th day of month 12). It is believed the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the preceding year and makes their homes ready for good luck. Brooms and dust pans are put away on the first day so that luck cannot be swept away. Some people give their homes, doors and window-panes a new coat of red paint. Homes are often decorated with paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases and couplets. Purchasing new clothing, shoes and receiving a hair-cut also symbolize a fresh start (though, as described below, it may be considered bad luck among some.)

In many households where Buddhism or Taoism is prevalent, home altars and statues are cleaned throughly, and altars that were adorned with decorations from the previous year are also taken down and burned a week before the new year starts, and replaced with new decorations. A paper effigy of the Kitchen God, the recorder of family functions, is also burned in order to report to the Jade Emperor of the family household's transgressions and good deeds.

The biggest event of any Chinese New Year's Eve is the dinner every family will have. A dish consisting of fish will appear on the tables of Chinese families. It is for display for the New Year's Eve dinner. In northern China, it is also customary to have dumplings for this dinner. Dumplings symbolize wealth because their shape is like a Chinese gold nugget. This meal is comparable to Christmas dinner in the West. After the dinner, some families go to local temples hours before the new year begins to pray for a prosperous new year; however in modern practice, many households hold parties and even hold a countdown to the new lunar year.

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