Spring Festival. Chinese New Year. It’s the most wonderful time of the year – a time for celebration, for reflection, for spending 18 hours wedged between three migrant workers on a hard seat to Datong.
So what are the meaning and customs of this annual odyssey back to the bosom of your loving, irritating family? Here’s our guide to the most-celebrated lunar holiday in China
- The tradition of Spring Festival dates back to the third millennium BCE, when China invented Spring
- Spring Festival marks the first day of the new year according to the lunar calendar, which China uses to stay in sync with the rest of the world
- Years are designated according to 12 zodiac symbols, such as monkey, horse, dragon, tiger and sheep. Beasts that didn’t make the cut include the narwhale, long-haired pangolin and Li Peng
- Plentiful fireworks and crackers are let off all week long to scare away ghosts, and usher in the god of pollution
- Doors and windows are decorated with lucky couplets to ensure an even distribution of wealth
In the countryside, many children look forward to a yearly visit from a pair of mythical strangers who come bearing gifts, known as “Mama” and “Baba”
- The annual Spring Festival CCTV gala draws an estimated 800 million viewers – more people than hate-watch the Super Bowl and Republican debates combined
- Instead of gifts, Chinese exchange ‘red envelopes’ (hongbao) stuffed with cash. The amount is calculated by monthly salary, multiplied by number of relatives, divided by tier of city, then subtract the amount of face you can afford to lose
- Traditional New Year’s greetings include “Xin Nian Kuai Le,” “Bai Nian Le” and “Why aren’t you married?”
- Remember, Spring Festival is not about fun, it’s about family – and knowing you won’t have to see them again for another whole year
China Daily Show would like to wish all our readers a most suspicious Chinese New Year!