Chinese New Year's Eve - 2020 Year of the Rat
Chinese New Year's Eve is the night of Chinese family reunion. Chinese housewives need to prepare for the New Year's Eve dinner and 15-day Chinese New Year festivals for weeks. They need to clean entire house, put new interior and exterior decoration, prepare new clothes and gifts for all family members, and food for many events. You can image that Chinese New Year festival combines Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year together.
Chinese New Year's Eve - Animal Monster Nian
Original meaning of Nian is related to farmer's harvest. Chinese Farmers celebrated their achievement for the past year, appreciated the gracious reward given from the god, and prayed for the same luck for the coming year.
Nobody knows when the legendary story about Nian began. Nian was a ferocious and carnivorous beast. It had lion-type head with elephant-type body. Nian couldn't find the food in the cold winter time, because many animals hibernated in the mountains. It must go down from the mountain to find the livestock. Later, It became a man-eater.
Nian was too strong to kill. Every winter night, people must stay inside the house. Years later, people found Nian was afraid of red, fire and noisy sound. So they cut red-color peach wood hanging on the door, made a campfire in the front of the door. When Nian approached the village, then people put the bamboo into the fire to make cracking sound. They also beat the metal kitchen and farming utensils to make noisy sound to scare Nian away.
People survived, celebrated and said congratulation each other on the next day. People felt like a restarting point after passing the disaster. Then, they called Guo-Nian (passing Nian) as the day before the new starting day.
Chinese New Year's Eve - Busy before Dinner
Many families probably are still working in the final house decoration. They need to finish the decoration on doors and windows. Chinese calligraphers write the New Year's poetry on the red color paper and people pasted them on the top and both of sides of main-entry door. They said this custom comes from the story of man-eater Nian animal, which was afraid of red. At the beginning, people drew The God of Door images on the red-color peach tree wood hanging on the door to scare the devil spirit away. Later, Chinese use red color paper instead. There is a even simpler way is to write a single character on the diamond-shape red paper and paste on the doors, windows, containers, posts, storages and money safety boxes. The popular characters are Spring, Luck, Full, Money, Happiness, Wealth, Safety or Prosperity. Some are posted upside down, because the sound of upside-down in Chinese is similar to the word of come. So the upside-down MONEY poster means money comes. The upside-down LUCK poster means the luck comes.
Long time ago, Chinese pasted the New Year paper-cutting arts on the windows. It's hard to find people doing this today, because it's required the experienced skill and lots of patience to create those art works. It's also quite time-consuming to put the arts on the windows.
After saying goodbye to gods and ancestors, women begin to prepare the reunion dinner. The main dish sitting on the center of the table is Hot-Pot. The traditional Hot-Pot is a big metal (alumni) bowel and has a hollow tube in the center. Chinese put hot bone soup in the bowel and cook different kind of sliced meat, seafood, vegetable, meat balls and seafood balls during the dinner. They put hot-rock or hot-coal inside the hollow tube to keep food warm. So they can eat the reunion dinner each for hours.
Chinese New Year's day usually is close to spring, but it's very often that the weather is still cold. In ancient China, in order to eat the warm food, Chinese had to sit around the cooking stove for New Year's Eve dinner. That's why this dinner is also called Wei-Lu , which means "surrounding the stove".
Chinese New Year's Eve - Reunion Dinner
There are many dishes on the dinner table. Every dish has an auspicious meaning behind it. It's connected to longevity, reunion, perfection, good luck, health, diligence, satisfaction or promotion based on the homophone of the dish's name. Family members are supposed to have some from every dish. So they can eat and chat for longer time and share love and care during this time. However, Chinese don't touch fish on the table. This is because the homophone of fish is remainder, which means they have surplus or extra saving in the end of the year. In the other hand, they need leftover for Chinese New Year - nobody cooks at home.
The last event is the vigil to wait for New Year coming. One main reason is this can extend parents lifespan. The sound of Sleepiness in Chinese is similar to Trouble. Sleepless means no trouble for the coming year. How can Chinese keep them awake? It's simple. They watch TV shows for Chinese New Year special. The other way is gambling - playing Mah-Jong. It's required lots of skill, memorization, calculation, strategy and luck to win the money. Since the fully concentration, you will feel the time pass quickly. Usually, they will play Mah-Jong all night long, because the loser wouldn't quit.
Many people will gather outside the temple after reunion dinner, everyone wants to be the first person of the year to be blessed by the God. There is the first incense stick race at many temples every year. One the first second of Rat hour, 11 P.M., as soon as the temple's main gate is opened, people will dash into the temple to insert the incense stick into the incense container. The winner will win a big Red-Envelope from the temple. But the most important thing is the winner will be very lucky in the coming year.
After receiving the Red Envelopes, young people like to go outside for the vigil of the year. Before midnight, they gather with friends or relatives around park, riverside or tall buildings to wait for the Chinese New Year fireworks.
Chinese New Year's Eve Before and After
Chinese celebrates Chinese New Year for fifteen days long. Every single day means something in Chinese culture. The last day is the Lantern Festival. Chinese need to prepare for Chinese New Year's eve and festival for weeks. The following articles explain the Chinese traditional background and events regarding the days before and after Chinese New Year's Eve.
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