新年快樂! (Happy New Year)
February 14th this year was the Chinese New Year‘s Day, the peak of the Spring Festival which is the most important Chinese holiday. As all traditional Chinese festivals, it is based on the Lunar Calendar and we’re now at the start of the year of the Tiger. It is practically impossible to travel inside China right before the festival as it is usually spent with the family and this means that people travel to their hometowns from the place they study or work.
In many ways, Spring Festival is to the Chinese what Christmas is to many Norwegians; a time for family, good food and traditions. These traditions differ depending on where in China you are. Most of the traditions are based on Chinese folk religion and include elements of ancestor worship, symbols that bring luck and prosperity and rituals to scare evil spirits from following them into the new year.
One tradition I’ve seen a lot of is fireworks. These days there are fireworks everywhere, all the time. It started Saturday at about 11 a.m. and I’ve been more or less able to hear it every hour after that, either distant or close by. Traditionally, the fireworks were to scare away evil spirits. I don’t know whether this is still in people’s minds when they use them, but it sure is the most visible (and audible) sign that celebrations are taking place.
Tasha and I got to see some of the preparations for Spring Festival up close last week when we visited Cuty, one of our Chinese friends. We made dumplings! This is the traditional “Spring Festival-food” in Northern China; so many families make them before the celebrations start. Dumplings are basically meat and vegetables wrapped in dough and then either boiled, steamed or fried. It’s easy to get hold of dumplings in Nanjing any time of the year, but they are mostly mentioned in connection with Spring Festival.
According to tradition, we put a coin in one of the dumplings we made. The one who gets the coin will have a year filled with luck and prosperity. We cheated and put a coin each in the dumplings, so we all ended up with lucky coins ^^,
Another tradition is to put up paper decorations on the door. These usually have characters like “luck” on them and are supposed to protect the home in the year to come. And they are not removed from the doors until next Spring Festival when new ones are put up. So we have seen them on doors from we came to China, but now they are all new and shiny. Tasha and I decided to put two tigers on our door too, for decoration purposes only.
We celebrated New Year’s Eve (13th) by going with Kala to the old town of Nanjing (Fuzi Miao) where there were lots of lanterns and lights. Pictures say more than words, so I’ll leave you with some photos from my Chinese New Year.