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Chinese New Year

In China, the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year,  lasting 15 days, is the most important traditional holiday. It encompasses many typical customs related to food, decorations, greetings and gifts. 

From the 23rd to the 12th day of the lunar month, the Chinese perform a complete cleaning of their house. Called “sweeping the dust”, this operation evokes the desire to evacuate the old things, to say goodbye to the past year before welcoming the new one.

On the other hand, the Chinese do not clean their houses the first two days of the year for fear of losing their luck.

For New Year’s Eve, the Chinese buy a lot of food, snacks and decorations before the party. Thus, in China, there is a big shopping boom during this period (just like Christmas!). 

Although some people decorate their homes several days before the holiday, most only do so on New Year’s Eve. They cover themselves with red lanterns, red couplets, red paper cut-outs and paintings associated with the New Year. 

The color red, synonymous with “good luck” for the Chinese, always predominates, while the ancient custom of placing the image of a “door god” on the front door is very important during the Spring Festival. 

Originally, the “door gods” took the form of wooden sculptures hung on doors. They gradually disappeared and were replaced by printed posters that were pasted directly on the doors.

The Chinese also place representations of “door gods” on their doors to invoke blessings of longevity, health and peace in their homes.

By placing a pair of “door gods” facing each other on a double door, it is assumed that this will prevent evil spirits from entering the house. For this reason, they are always depicted as fierce, raising various weapons to fight evil spirits.

Chinese New Year Spring Verses

Spring or New Year couplets (春联: Chūnlián /chwn-lyen/) take the form of doublets in poetic verses, usually consisting of seven Chinese characters each, calligraphed in black ink on strips of red paper and affixed to both sides of the door frame. 

Sometimes a verse of four or five characters is added above the door. Rich in blessings or good wishes, these New Year’s couplets are supposed to ward off evil spirits. 

New Year paintings are also used to decorate homes to attract positive vibes to the home while creating a cheerful and welcoming atmosphere for the Spring Festival. 

Themes of New Year paintings include flowers and birds, plump children (with Guanyin, the goddess of mercy and fertility), golden roosters, oxen, ripe fruits and treasures, or other historical legends and stories of wishes for abundant harvests and a happy life.

In China, the four famous centers of New Year painting production are Mianzhu in Sichuan Province, Taohuawu in Suzhou, Yangliuqing in Tianjin and Weifang in Shandong.

Before the Spring Festival, people would stick paper cutouts on north- and south-facing windows. Although this practice is still very common in northern China, in the south they are only used during wedding celebrations.

The subjects and themes of the newspaper clippings vary greatly. Most of them are associated with rural life, as most of the buyers are still farmers. 

For this reason, they mainly depict scenes of farming, fishing, weaving, sheepfolds, pigs and chickens. Sometimes the paper cutouts depict myths, legends and even Chinese operas. Also popular are motifs depicting flowers, birds and creatures of the Chinese zodiac.

 

By Andreina Ibarra.

 

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