Chinese New Year’s Eve is the day before the Lunar New Year. Celebrating Chinese New Year’s Eve has always been a family matter in China,a most important reunion day for every Chinese family. It has evolved over a long period of time. The origin of Chinese New Year’s Eve can be traced back to 3500 years ago and originated in the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046 BC), when Chinese held sacrificial ceremonies in honour of gods and ancestors at the end of each year. Then in the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256 BC), the phrase “Nian (Year)”appeared certain cultural practices became popular among Chinese such as honoring the door god, and burning bamboo.
In most parts of China, especially in south, people are used to having grand family banquets to celebrate New Year’s Eve which is known as “Happy gathering”. Since it is the last meal of the year, the family members must sit together to enjoy the delicious traditional dishes and everybody in the family is allowed and encouraged to drink. After the grand family banquet, all family members sit together around the fireplace, chatting, singing, laughing or playing cards and stay up late to the dawn of next morning.
Burning bamboo and firecrackers
There’s an ancient myth that a devil lived in the western mountains and people would fall ill if they come across it, but this devil is afraid of the sound of bamboo. So Chinese will burn bamboo to make the sound and it’ll keep the devil out of their house on New Year’s Eve. Nowadays, Chinese people like to burn firecrackers instead of bamboo on Chinese New Year’s Eve not just for keeping the devil out, but also for having fun.
Send in the Kitchen God
The kitchen god is regarded as the ambassador of the Jade Emperor to each Chinese family. It is said that at midnight on Chinese New Year’s Eve, the kitchen god from each family would go to heaven to report the family’s deeds during the year. On lunar new year, the kitchen god returns to earth and each family welcomes him by pasting a new picture of him in the kitchen.
Welcoming the Door God
On Chinese New Year’s Eve, each family would invite the door god by pasting its picture on the front door as a talisman to forbid any devil to enter the family. The most popular door gods are Zhong kui, Qin shubao and Yu chigong in different area of China.
Traditional Chinese would make a bow of peach wood to guard the door and exorcise the devil that caused plagues. A custom which dates back to the Qin Dynasty. The entrance-guarding god was closely related to festivals and peach wood was regarded as having a supernatural force with which ghosts could be driven away.
Traditional foods for Chinese New Year’s Eve
The family reunion dinner is crucial to Chinese culture. The New Year’s Eve feast allows all the family to sit together. Some of the most popular dishes are:
Spring rolls are a traditional dish in East China. It is a Cantonese dish made of thin dough rolls filled with vegetables, meat, or something sweet, then fried to give them a golden-yellow.
In north China, dumplings are a traditional food on New Year’s Eve, while in southern China very few people serve dumplings as Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner. Minced meat (pork, shrimp, chicken, beef.etc.) and vegetables are wrapped in the elastic dough skin. Boiling, steaming, frying are the most common ways to cook these dumplings.
Glutinous Rice Cake
Glutinous Rice Cake is called “Nian Gao” in mandarin. The sound of Nian Gao has a good meaning, suggesting ‘getting better year by year’. It is made of sticky rice, sugar, chestnuts, lotus leaves, and is a common dish in southern Lunar New Year Eve reunion dinners.
Good Fortune Fruit
Tangerines, oranges and pomelos are fruits that have traditionally been eaten at this feast. It’s believed that eating these particular fruits then can bring good fortune as they have a round shape, golden colour which symbolise fullness and wealth.
These noodles represent Chinese’s wish for longevity. The length and preparation of longevity noodles are symbolic of the eater’s life, and are longer than normal noodles. They’re usually fried or boiled and served in a bowl.
Money gifts and Money trees
Children are given money gifts on lunar New Year’s Eve. Adults usually put money in a red pocket and hide it under their children’s pillows. In ancient time, Chinese money was the round copper coins with a square hole in the middle. These would be threaded with colourful ribbons to make the shape of a dragon and then put beside their children’s beds while the children were asleep. A custom which is very similar to Christmas gifts in the west.
The Money tree is a legendary tree which will shed coins when shaken. On New Year’s Eve, Chinese will cut some pine branches and put them in vase, then tie on copper coins, shoe-shaped gold or silver and pomegranate flowers to decorate the tree.
It’s considered especially good luck to wear red on Chinese New Year.
After Chinese New Year’s Eve, all cleaning tools such as brooms, brushes, dusters must be put away as they believe that if they do sweep or dust on New Year’s Day, the good fortune will disappear.
Cooking should also be finished by the end of New Year’s Eve and knives put away. It’s believed that using a knife on lunar New Year’s Eve will cut off all the good luck and fortune for the upcoming year.
Hold on to your hat – 2020 is the Chinese Year of the Rat
Chinese New Year’s Eve
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