Chinese New Year 2019: Day-by-Day Celebrating Schedule of Chinese New Year
New Year’s Day
The first day of the first month of the lunar year is also called the first day of the Chinese New Year. In the past, New Year’s Day was called Yuan Dan. The basic meaning of “Yuan” is head, and later it has been broadened to “beginning”. Because New Year’s Day is the first day of Chinese New Year, the first day of spring and the first day of the first lunar month, it is named as the “Three Yuan” (three beginning) or “San Chao”.
In the lunar calendar, the first day of each month is given a name “Shuo”. So New Year’s Day is also known as “Yuan Shuo” (the first “shuo” day). There are some other names such as “Shang Day”, “Zheng Chao”, “San Shuo” and “San Shi”, etc. Here are some interesting celebration activities.
放鞭炮[fàng biān pào]
On the first morning of Chinese New Year, people open their doors to breathe the fresh air of a new year. How to open the door at the beginning of Chinese New Year needs special attention. To get up early is the first step as people need to get up early every day to do their farming work and run their business.
The first person to wake up will sing Lyrics of Three to Five O’Clock with wishes that people could get rich through hard work and keep healthy and lucky forever.
The door is to be opened soon after the song is finished. If the door is opened in the right way, the whole family will be lucky and prosperous. So the elders are usually to take care of this and young men cannot be allowed to intervene in the event. It is said that young men are likely to let luck and hope go because of their carelessness.
Time matters too, so people need to check out almanac to decide the specific hour to open the door. After the door is open, people kowtow to the god in favorable and auspicious places or directions.
Then every household sets off the firecrackers which had been placed on the other end of a bamboo pole. Bathed in the deafening sound, a new year is coming while the old year is left behind.
Firecrackers were made in China, also called by folk people as “Bao Zhang”, “Pao Zhang”, “Bao Zhu”. It has a history of two thousand years. Setting off firecrackers can create a lively festive atmosphere. As a recreation, it can bring people joy and luck.
Firecrackers are used in more fields as time goes by with more elegant design and various colors. People set off firecrackers on every occasion when major holidays come, or wedding ceremonies, house building ceremonies and opening ceremonies are held.
It will be heatedly discussed in which family the sound of fireworks is the loudest and longest. When the sound fades away, pieces of firecrackers’ red cover paper are scattered away everywhere on the ground, spectacular as brocade sheet if seen far away. The scene got its folk name “all-around red”. Happiness and luck thus are said to enter the house in such a red background.
Some families cast some small firecrackers outside the door for the neighbor children to pick up. That symbolizes the family is rich and thus gets an auspice when children shout loudly “some more” or “so many”.
Now, Liuyang in Hunan Province, Foshan and Dongguan in Guangdong Province, Yichun and Pingxiang in Jiangxi Province and Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province are well known for high-quality fireworks making and various design. The firecrackers made in these places sell well in China and all over the world.
New Year’s Greetings
After setting off the firecrackers, people put on new clothes and step out of their houses to pay their relatives and friends a Chinese New Year’s visit. It is also called by some folks “walking in spring” or “looking for spring”. Best wishes and greetings to each other are exchanged in this way.
Certain rules were followed to greet Happy New Year in ancient China.
Firstly, those relatives people must pay a visit were mainly patrilineal. Superiors and close friends could be included too. Secondly, it began from home greetings.
On the first morning, the young made kowtow salution to the elders of the family and greeted them with best wishes and regards after waking up. Then people went out to visit the father-side relatives and their own friends. The hosts or hostesses would not make their New Year visitors leave with no gifts. Some sweet and confectionary were taken as gifts with symbolic meanings of “sending blessing”. There was another kind of visit worth some words here.
People sit around and exchanged the greetings, which is known as “greeting all around”.
There have been numerous means to greet New Year up to now. Besides door to door visits, delivering red paper containing money as a gift, sending messages and giving a phone call are all chosen to express New Years wishes along with writing letters, sending emails or flowers, 3D live greeting and video chatting.
According to traditional legends, Chinese New Year’s Day is the birthday of the broom. So on this day, brooms are forbidden to be used any longer, otherwise, they would sweep away good luck and wealth of the family as people think that brooms could bring the ominous “broom star” home. The broom star actually is a comet, which looks like a broom in its movement with a tail-shaped end Chinese tradition reckons that the comet is a weird and monstrous star with a head and a tail. It could bring war, famine, floods and plague disaster to people when it appears. So at its birthday people try all not to annoy and disturb it. If a floor-sweeping is a must, it should be done from outside to inside.
People are not allowed to sprinkle water or throw away trash on this day in order to prevent money drain from the house.
At present, the custom is still observed by some folk people in many places. On the Eve, the floor is swept clean and kept untouched until the second day of New Year comes. People don’t throw away garbage either. They put the trash into a big bucket instead and don’t splash water outside of their house.
On the 2nd Day
“On the second and third day of Chinese New Year, the road is full of young men and women.” This folk proverb depicts a picture that married women are on the way to pay their pro-family homes New Year call together with their husbands.
This home visit tradition is usually practiced on the second day.
In the morning, married daughters will return homes with their husbands and children paying their parents and relatives Chinese New Year visit. A son-in-law is expected to express his best regards to the wife’s parents on the day and then he will be regarded as the most distinguished guest.
Traditionally, on New Year’s Day, a married daughter cannot be allowed to return to her parents’ house as it is said that she would eat out of all the food there.
As a matter of fact, as a housewife and major laborer, a married woman is too occupied with her reception work in her own family on New Year’s Day as there are so many visitors. Only on the second day could she take the time to visit her own family.
Married women returned their homes, which was called “Gui Ning” by ancient Chinese. Generally, “Gui” means return while “Ning” stands for relief. “Gui Ning” refers to that seeing the married daughter safe and happy, her parents feel relieved. In the past, women had a lower social status than men. After marriage women would not be regarded as family members of their pre-marital family. Few chances were given to see their parents, let alone to taking care of them.
However, the daughters loved their parents and the parents missed their daughters. So the tradition of Gui Ning or married women’s home visit offered parents and daughters a precious opportunity to meet each other. On one hand, these daughters could greet their parents and the elders in the family. On the other hand, the return of the daughter could relieve parents’ long-term miss and concern.
The custom Gui Ning is said to derive from marriage practice Hui Men. According to “Hui Men”, the newly-wedded couples need to return the wife’s home the next day after their marriage. The bridegroom is supposed to salute to his father-in-law, mother-in-law and other elders of the family, who treated him with the utmost cordiality.
Anywhere, on the second day of New Year, newly-wedded couples must come back together. For the old spouse with children, the picture may be a little different. The wife could return with the children, maybe without her husband. But she should take gifts with her before she is on her way home happily.
Another thing needs some words here. If the couple are determined to return home, they will be dressed new and get all gifts prepared. Besides chicken, meat, fish, wine and fruits, a big packet of cookies and sweet should be ready beforehand. The son-in-law needs to offer his parents-in-law some Hui Men money to thank what they did to raise his wife.
As an aunt, the married daughter should give her nephews some money as gifts. And this money has a different sense from that money given on New Year’s Day.
It is the happiest time to have daughters and sons-in-law back home. The parents cook early and get a delicious meal ready to entertain these distinguished guests. The sons-in-law sit in the most honorable seat of the table and surrounded by the elders of the family. Good wines and delicious food will be served to them first.
The custom of Gui Ning is nicknamed as “having a daytime meal” by people from Chaoshan of Guangdong Province. As the name suggests, it means that wife and husband could only eat lunch in the house of their parents. They have to get back to the husband’s family before supper. The married daughter staying in her parents’ house overnight is considered unlucky.
In addition, on the second day of Chinese New Year, there is another custom in the north of China-people usually offer the sacrifice to the God of Wealth. On this day, stores, shops, and households all have offering ceremony.
The family will offer fish and mutton to the God of wealth as well as to the others they have welcomed on Chinese New Year’s Eve. And some households burn several symbolic items. At noon, people need to eat wonton commonly known as the “Silver Ingots Soup”.
The big firms or brands of Peking hold a spectacular ritual with famous “Five Great Offerings”, namely, including a cooked pig, a cooked sheep, cooked chicken, a whole duck, and a red live carp to extend their wishes for wealth acquisition in the coming year.
On the 3rd Day
The days from the 23rd of the last lunar month to the second day of Chinese New Year see people having been busy with the celebration of the Spring Festival.
Up to the third day, people feel exhausted just like the folk proverb says that “people are consumed to the full length”. It is time to have a good rest and refreshments after nearly ten-day heavy work. So people will do nothing but sleep for a day at home.
The third day is called “Red-Stricken Dog Day” in legend. Red-Stricken Dog is said to be a southern god in charge of fire and summer, who is famous for its fiery and violent nature. And moreover, the word “red-stricken” is similar to the word “poverty-stricken” in Chinese language, a taboo term at the big moment.
Due to these factors listed above, people try not to get out on the day when the fierce god travels around. They decline all invitations and close the door in order to leave the fire god alone. And meanwhile, take the chance to relax their bodies and souls.
Though people rest on the day, there are still some customs to be followed.
For example, people need to pay respect to the Well God at home and nearby their houses. In the morning, people burn the incense and paper-money beside the well curd and offer the vegetarian dishes. Then they will uncover the red note posted on the well before New Year’s Eve to “open” the well.
In the evening, what they should do is to burn the pine branches and the printings of the Door God and the threshold off to show that the festival is over and life will go on. That corresponds to the folk saying that “the day to earn a living will begin after that the Door God paper has been set to fire”.
The day also serves as the birthday of the Grain God. To have a big harvest, people choose not to eat rice to please the Grain God.
In legend, it is on this day that the sheep was made by Nuwa who created the living things in the world. Therefore, on sheep’s birthday, people are forbidden to kill sheep so that sheep could be bred well in the next year.
The evening is a big moment for rats to get married. People go to bed early in the hope that male rats could not find the way to welcome rat brides in the darkness. Or the whole family suffers from their disturbance and molestation when they breed groups of children after their marriage. Despite that, people are kind enough to sprinkle rice, wheat powder and salt for rats to enjoy in the corners.
In some parts of southern China, there is a tradition of attaching a red-paper scroll with some “well-connoted words” on it to the top of the front door and back door on the third morning. It is believed that people quarrel a lot on this day and thus not suitable to have a New Year visit.
The “well-intentional words” such as a safe trip and good luck are written on a piece of red paper 7 or 8 cun long and one cun wide. The trash left two days ago needs to be thrown away on the third day of New Year with a scroll of “well-intentional words”. That is said to prevent money drained from home.
On the 4rd Day
On this day the Land God and the Town God are said to return to earth from heaven, people need to prepare the offerings like joss sticks and candles, fruits and dishes to bid them a heartfelt welcome.
The Land God was nicknamed as “the grandfather of the land” and was among most widely-worshipped gods in the folk culture.
He is a combination of the god of wealth and the god of blessing as he is wealthy enough to possess a large amount of land. He is always regarded as the patron saint of the local place. In legend, he is not only the lord of the land, but also is entrusted with the important task of harvest. In the agricultural times, most Chinese made their living by working in the fields and land meant everything. Thus, the Land God was especially popular among gods and deities and he was on the list of five gods who enjoyed people’s frequent worship in the hall of average household.
On the fourth day of the New Year, people hold an offering to meet the Land God and pay him their great respect. They set an offering table on which the candles and incense are kept burning and the sacrifice is ready to be served.
The guardian god of towns, closely related to the Land God, takes charge of the peace of their places.
Specifically, he prevents flood, drought, and epidemic from happening in the towns and cities. And he is also one of the rulers of the underworld. Only in a peaceful place can people live and work happily. The cities and towns under his protection are safe enough to resist any invasion of foreign enemies and people are obliged to him for their peaceful and happy life.
At first, people did not separate the Land God from the Town’s God until they worshipped them respectively in the Tang Dynasty. With the growing development of cities and towns, the Town God had attracted more worshippers and the Land God thus became his subordinate.
So at present people often have their worship ritual in the temples of Town Gods rather than in the temples of Land Gods.
On the 5th and 6th Day
The fifth day in lunar January is a special day characterized by the events of “receiving the god of wealth and open beneficial business”.
When the day is approaching, people burn incense and set off firecrackers and fireworks to welcome the god of wealth with doors and windows wide open.
People must eat much more than usual, which is known as “fill the hungry holes”, to imply that they will not be consumed by poverty and starvation.
Sending the poverty away was a typical and interesting custom observed by the ancient Chinese folks on the fifth day of the Chinese New Year.
Every household made a paper woman model with a bag on her back. She was also named as “woman sweeper”, “poor woman” and “poor female”. Later people swept the dirty dust and gathered it into the paper woman’s bag. And then the model was taken outside and blasted into pieces by the firecracker. The event is also called as “sending the dirt” or “sending the poor woman away”.
The fifth day is also well known for another name “Rule-breaking Day”.
There are many rules for people to follow on the days from New Year’s Eve to the fifth day of New Year.
Take this as an example, women are not allowed to visit the neighbors or do their needling work during these days. Another instance is also awkward that people cannot cook raw rice and must eat dumplings on New Year’s fifth day.
People can break these rules when the fifth day is over. By then, the New Year rules no longer work so people begin to work and study while the merchants start to run their business.
The Taoists set the fifth day of New Year as the birthday of five Taoist gods which are named by the five gods of treasure from five directions-the east, the west, the south, the north and the central part of the world.
That reveals people’s wishes that they will be faced with treasure wherever they go. In Taoist teaching, the gods from the east and west c bring wealth and jewelry; the gods from the south and north can benefit the businessmen and antique collectors. And the god from the middle can bless people everything going well.
In folk stories, they were five brothers who often took away the property of the malevolent rich and gave it to the poor. They robbed the rich and assisted the poor when they were alive and they often made their presence to help the poverty-stricken people after death. So they were worshipped as the gods of treasure. They are said to be in charge of five directions in which goods and money are transported to and fro. Thus the five gods are attached more importance by the dealers and investors.
Gu Lu of the Qing Dynasty says in his Qing Jia Record that “the fifth day is the birthday of five gods of treasure, and to meet them, people usually get up early playing the drum loud and setting off the firecrackers, which is known as ‘meeting gods of treasure in five directions'”.
In order to please the gods, people are to make their preparations in advance and wait to begin their receptions on the earliest morning of the fourth day with the basic principle “the sooner, the better”.
The first to meet the god could invite the god to be with him, which is alluded to as “compete for the gods of treasure” or “meet the gods of treasure as early as possible”.
The sacrifices offered to the gods of treasure must include the heads of sheep and carp. The former is well-connoted with “luck” while the latter “carp” is pronounced the same with another Chinese word “Yu” which means that there is always enough food and clothing in one’s house.
With the gods of treasure home, people cannot stay at home idling around. Therefore, they are back to work on the sixth day of New Year.
The business is restored. Before the shops open, the businessmen set off fireworks as a profit-making sign. The bustling but hilarious scene is as spectacular as the performance on the night of the Eve in terms of quantity of firecrackers whose sound of blast lasts quite long.
The firecrackers announce the opening off Shops and stores to the customers and neighborhood. And furthermore, pieces of red paper scraping all over the ground could predict a promising and prosperous future and the customer could have good luck stepping on them.
On this day, the farmers resume their work in the fields and prepare for the spring plowing.
On the 7th Day
The seventh day of the first lunar month is entitled as Man’s Day as it is considered man was made on this day. The day is also called as Man’s Festival, Man’s Birthday, Seventh Beginning Day and Man’s Seventh Day.
The day was first celebrated as Man’s Day in the Han Dynasty, gained some attention in the Wei and Jin Dynasties and attracted more attention care in the Tang Dynasty. When Man’s Day came, the emperors gave his ministers man-shaped gold foils as gifts and then held a big feast in his palace.
The origin of Man’s Day could be traced back to the legend that the Goddess Nuwa made human beings and other animals in the world.
And now let’s see what happened in the story.
There was a dead silence between heaven and earth at the times when Nuwa was present. She felt lonely and made some living beings to accompany her out of the mixture of mud and water. Just similar to Genesis where God made everything in the world, Nuwa created seven living beings in seven days, which made the world full of vigor and vitality.
On the first day of the lunar year, she shaped a rooster As soon as the rooster crowed, the gate of heaven was opened with the sun, the moon and all the stars getting out and scattering away. Since then they have been glittering and sparking under the canopy of the sky. On the second day, Nuwa made a dog which ran to the wildness at once. The dog barked fiercely and four directions like east, south, west, and north emerged immediately.
On the next four days, pigs, sheep, cows, and horses were created one after another. Then these six animals spread over the ground and ran here and there. To keep them under watch, the Goddess decided to shape a man as their keeper on the seventh day. Therefore the seventh day was remembered as man’s birthday Ancient people developed a custom to wear Ren Sheng to celebrate the birth of the human race.
Ren Sheng is a kind of man-shaped hairpins made of gold foils, also called as “Color Sheng” or “Hua Sheng” (Colored hairpins). In the Jin Dynasty, people began cutting the ribbons into certain flower patterns or carving gold foils into man’s shape. These cutting clips or carved gold foils could be attached to the screen walls for decoration or put on in women’s hair for sake of beauty.
The fine weather of the seventh day is believed to predict that people could have a big harvest in this new year and thus live happily and safely.
On Man’s Birthday, the food is a little different from the one of usual time as people need to eat a soup named “Seven Delicacies”.
It is made from seven kinds of vegetables which could dispel pathogenic virus and bacteria and heal all illnesses. The vegetables vary from place to place though their connotation conveyed may be quite Similar. In Chaoshan of Guangdong Province, people choose mustard, broccoli, leek, Chun Cai, celery, garlic, and Hou Ban Cai. Hakka people prefer celery, garlic, onion, coriander, leek, fish and meat.
While in Taiwan folks would like to have spinach, celery, onion mixed with garlic, leek mustard, shepherd’s purse, and Chinese cabbage. In a symbolic sense, eating celery and onion represents that people can become clever; eating more garlic could make a businessman who is good at calculating; shepherd’s purse could make a man live longer.
On the 8th Day
People still need to hold a ceremony for the stars on the evening of the eighth day when the night falls and the sky is glorious.
When the sacrifice begins, people need to put lamps with burning yellow flame on the hearth, stove, threshold and cooking bench. That is called as “scattering yellow flame away” or “scattering villains away” for luck’s purpose. The offering is ended and the family get together to eat sweet dumplings.
Another interesting activity is to set captive animals free.
According to folk tales, people could get the blessing of gods if they put some domestic fish back into the sea or send some caged birds back to nature. The event of releasing not only manifests that people respect nature and expect to live harmoniously with it, but also conveys their best wishes for all kinds of prosperous living beings at the beginning of spring.
On the 9th to 14th Day
The ninth day of the first lunar month is the day of the sun. It is said that it is the birthday of the gods’ king – the Jade Emperor of Heaven, which is commonly known as “the birth of the Heaven Lord” or “the birth of the Lord of Sun”.
The Heaven Lord or the Jade Emperor is also referred to as “the most respected Buddha at the beginning of the world” in Taoist. He is believed to rule the universe including the realm of God, of man and of the dead. His power is bestowed by heaven and does his governess on behalf of the supreme heaven. To worship the Heaven Lord and to worship the most respected Buddha in Taoist’s temples are two major customs practiced in some places. Each family prepares the fragrant candles and the bowls containing vegetarian food. They offer their sacrifices in the open air and kneel down to the Heaven Lord to pray for his everlasting blessing.
The word “ten” in Chinese is homophonic with “stone”, so the tenth day is considered to be the birthday of the stone.
On that day, stone mills and stone tools using are forbidden. Besides that, people need to worship the Stone God to avoid his harm to the crops, which is clear in the folk saying that “we keep the stones still on the tenth day; they will be kept still in the other days”.
In Henan Province, the custom to worship stones with the incense burning has been still kept. On the tenth day, Henan people must have pancakes for lunch as this represents that they will make more money. There has been a custom of carrying the Stone God in Yucheng, Shandong Province.
On the night of the ninth day, people put a pottery jar on a flat big stone. And then they watered the jar till it was frozen and stuck to the stone’s surface tight and firm. The next morning, 10 young men carried the jar in turn by grasping its nozzle with the big stone glued beneath. If the stone didn’t fall down, a big harvest of the year would be guaranteed.
The eleventh day is the time for the parents to entertain their sons-in-law again after a reunion party on the second day, which is thus named by Son-in-law Day. But the reception is more casual than the second day’s formal party.
As there is a lot of food still left after the Heaven Lord sacrifice which is held two days earlier, the parents need not to be bustled and hustled with cooking. Therefore they have more time available to enjoy staying with their children.
On the twelfth-day people will set up the tents of lamps and lanterns, that is, from this day on, people need to do preparations for the Lantern Festival. Lanterns or lamps need to be purchased or made by hand two or three days earlier before the festival. And at the same time building a shelter (usually a tent) for the coming lantern show needs to be put into consideration.
Just as folk proverbs tell us, “The noisy and happy chatting is heard on the eleventh day and men are putting up a lantern tent one day later; The lights are faring up on the 13th day and 14th day; Up to the 15th half month is passing by and the festival is over on the 16th day.”
On the 15th Day
The 15th day is the last day of Chinese New Year and serves as another special traditional holiday, the Lantern Festival.
The first lunar month is also known as Yuan month while the night is known as Xiao in ancient times. Yuan Xiao is another well-known name for the 15th night of New Year. Only at that night of lunar January can we have a full moon in sight. The most beloved and popular customs are to eat sweet dumplings and to enjoy all kinds of lanterns. Every household cooks sweet dumplings as dinner before they walk out hand in hand to watch the beautiful scenery made by numerous illuminating lamps and lanterns.
Sweet dumplings taste delicious and are round-shaped with an implication of reunion and harmonization. The sweet dumpling is made of sticky rice with sesame, mashed bean, rose and mashed date fillings inside. The flavors differ when it is cooked in the boiling water, fried in a pan or steamed in a hot pot.
People not only watch the lanterns in fairs, they also hang their hand-made ones under the eaves for the others to enjoy. The historical stories and famous figures painted on the paper cover are shining and glittering alive together with flowers, grass, , and animals, which has created an eye-catching fairy world for people to wander along.
Lantern fairs and temple fairs are usually mostly crowded, and are worthwhile of travelling around during the Lantern Festival.