The 23rd day of the year's last lunar month marks a traditional Chinese holiday called Xiao Nian, which means Preliminary Eve, the prelude to the Lunar New Year's Eve celebration.
Q1: For more on the festival, we are joined by Zhang Bo. Good evening. Can you share with us the story behind Xiaonian? What is its origin?
A1. Although the lunar new year starts on the first day of the first lunar month, the celebration of the big holiday, launches a week earlier in many places of China, from today on.
Xiao nian means the prelimilary eve, a prelude to the Lunar New Year's eve celebration. It is said to be the day, the Jade Emperor, the supreme ruler of the Heaven, inspects mortals, and rewards or punishes them.
On this day, a paper effigy of Zao Wang, the Kitchen God, who is the recorder of family functions will be burned. This is done to send the Kitchen God to the Jade Emperor and report him on the household's transgressions and good deeds. Families often offer sweet foods like candy in order to "bribe" the dieties into saying good things about the family.
Back on earth, it means, it's time to start festival shopping. Flowers, sugar, new year pictures are all in demand.
Q2. What about other festivities and preparations take place at around the time of the lunar new year?
A: Well, as it is the year's most important festival, many things need to be taken care of. On the days before the New Year celebration, Chinese families give their home a through cleaning. They, or WE believe the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the preceding year and makes their homes ready for good luck. Brooms and dust pans are put away on the first day so that the newly arrived good luck cannot be swept away. Some people give their homes, doors and window-frames a new coat of red paint. They often decorate their homes with paper cutouts of auspicious phrases and couplets. Purchasing new clothing, shoes, and receiving a hair-cut also symbolize a fresh start.
The biggest event of any Chinese New Year's eve is the family dinner, like the Christmas dinner in the West. In northern China, it is our custom to make jiaozi, or dumplings, and eat them around midnight. They symbolize wealth because their shape is like a Chinese tael. In the South, people turn to make Nian Gao, a new year cake, which literally means increasingly prosperous - year in year out.