In celebration of the Chinese New Year, I asked my Chinese friend living in the Philippines to tell a story about festival activities in Mainland China. I thought it’s gonna be a simple story that she can share for fun, turns out she wrote a heartfelt story about how they celebrate Spring Festival or Chinese New Year in their village when she was young.. I hope I didn’t made her too homesick when I asked her to write this. Read her story below:
I was born in a small village located in Jiangxi Province, China. I remember the small village only have about 20 households, most of the people living around me are the relatives from grandparents generation. I was told long ago that people want to avoid the civil war, so many of people migrate to the mountains and settle down when they find a place good to stay.
The small village surrounded by hills, and with a small tributary from the reservoir into the Xin river must have been a very secret refuge.
People often know that Jiangxi is a beautiful place because there are mountains and rivers in it, that’s so true, the small village where we stay is the best witness. As the village is so small, so everyone is familiar with each household, grandparents, uncles, aunts home are all just there.
When I was a child, I live with my grandparents. Most of the adults in the village went out to far away cities like Fujian and Guangdong province because of work. They will return to our hometown only a few days before the Spring festival. Most family members who stay in the village always look forward to it..
Every year when spring festival is near, people from different places rush home, some people arrive a few days before the spring festival while some get home the day before the festival. When someone comes back, the children will go together to his or her home, and often they will buy candy from the city as a gift to the kids, everyone has a share. That’s the happiest moment in my childhood.
Photo Credit: Jessi_zou
A few days before the Spring festival each household will conduct a clean-up, cleaning every corner of the home to be spotlessly clean, to prepare for the upcoming new year a new atmosphere, the point of new year is the word – “New”. On New Year’s Eve, every household will hang red lanterns and paste couplets on either side of doors, whose inscriptions seek good luck or happiness, these are the annual customs. Uncle who lives next door will personally write with the brush on the couplets that everyone in the village brought to him because my uncle writes the best Calligraphy in the village. Now my cousin, my uncle’s son, also inherited the calligraphy talent, he owns a Painting studio and recruits students in Shenzhen.
Everyone wears new clothes on Chinese New Year’s Eve, when I was a child my desire for new clothes is very strong even till now, I often remember on New Year’s Day, we get up a lot earlier than usual, for most of the reasons I can’t wait to try my new clothes on in the morning. Mom will help us dress up in the early morning, I remember there was one year my mother painted a red point in both me and my sister’s forehead with a lipstick, we look like goddess Guanyin which always have the red mark on her forehead. Can’t imagine how happy we were during the Spring Festival.
Dinner in Lunar New Year’s Eve is often the most sumptuous meal of the year. I remember my grandmother busy with preparing the food from early in the morning. The pot will be stewed with large chunks of pork, fragrance floating in the village. Since everyone are preparing new year food, the fragrance of food surrounded in the village can be smelled from each family’s kitchen. Not every day we can eat delicious food during my childhood, so for this special day seems everyone try to make up for the past days to prepare many dishes as they can. New Year’s Eve is the day families reunite, each household will prepare a hearty dinner for the day. New Year dinner is often indispensable with chicken, duck , fish and many meats, chicken are often stew as whole , “Chicken鸡” sounds same as “lucky吉”in Chinese, in the hope that a year can be wealthy with favorable wishes. Like the chicken, the fish also needs to be cooked as whole fish too.
Before we start to eat, Grandfather will offer some meal as a sacrifice to our ancestors. The dead relatives will always be concerned about the offspring of the children and grandchildren, earthly people then worship to pray and repay their patronage and blessing, offering sacrificial rituals, including incense, sacrifice meal, wine, God worship, etc. After grandfather is finished with the worship, then we can begin to enjoy delicious food.
For the children, Lunar New Year’s Eve is another highlight of getting “lucky money” from parents and relatives. Normally it starts after dinner, the adults will go to each family of the children to give “lucky money”, the money are put in red envelopes to the children. Give “lucky money” custom has a long history, aside from giving good wishes, it serves as amulets of the elders to bless the children in the new year. The next day, kids then buy lots of toys or snacks, to celebrate their unique New Year atmosphere.
In the first day of the Lunar New Year, we get up early, of course, parents will need to get earlier to prepare breakfast and candies for people to come. After breakfast, sister, brother and me will go to grandparents house BaiNian(拜年）, and then to uncle’s home. BaiNian is a traditional Chinese folk customs, it means to congratulate the New Year, it’s a way of discarding old and bringing in new. Usually the first day of Lunar Chinese New Year, the parents lead the younger generation to go out to visit relatives, friends, elders, gives warm wishes to each other to celebrate the New Year, the young people must know how to salute, that’s “BaiNian”.
The host family will give dim sum, candy, red envelopes (Lucky money) to show warm hospitality. The second day Mom and Dad will lead us to go to another grandparents house(which is mom’s parents). BaiNian starts from the first day will continue until the fifteenth of the first month, usually visits to relatives and friends of the order is: first day visits relatives from father’s side; second, third day visits Grandparents and uncles from Mom’s side, father-in-law and so on. after visits all the relatives then could hang out with friends.
The small village I lived in is crowded only during Lunar New Year. These beautiful memories are only from my childhood, I think probably because I have grown up and lived so long in the cities, I have not been home for a long time to celebrate in the Lunar New Year. When I think about it, I feel a lot of regret, perhaps in the next Chinese New Year, I should go back and share the New Year with the family.
Contributor: Belle Tutu is an absolute dreamer, thoughts often floating in the air. One day, she can’t bear the illusion of life outside anymore, she followed her heart and fly out to see the world. She had left her laughter in the blue sea of Redang Island, and stayed in Chiang Mai’s jungle trekking, felt the beauty of half water half fire in MuiNe.
She also made her footprints in every corner of London, the road trip at pacific high way one in California was her best encounter ever. If she had not been brave, she would not have met the most beloved Filipinos. She is a brave dreamer, dreaming that one day travel and writing will be her life too.