Some people tend to think that Chinese New Year celebrations start on New Year’s Eve. However, they start as early as on the 24th day of the final month in the Chinese lunar calendar. According to a legend, on this day deities return to the celestial palace to report the past year’s developments to the Jade Emperor.
Throughout history, people would decorate their front doors with poetic spring couplets in black ink on red sheets. They would light torches and set off firecrackers the entire night of New Year’s Eve. On the morning of New Year’s Day, they would congratulate each other with joy and excitement for having scared away the beast Nian.
Families spend the day preparing offerings on the altar’s table to pay tribute to the deities, while burning spirit money, which is meant to cover travel expenses for these deities traveling back to the celestial palace. In addition, people smear syrup around the portrait of the deity in charge of the kitchen, so that he Whoever has to live or work out of town tries his best to get back home on or before New Year’s Eve to join the family for the abundant dinner on the final day of the year. This is the time when adults give red packets filled with money to children. The whole family stays up late past midnight to greet the arrival of the New Year.
A legend says that staying up past midnight on New Year’s Eve can increase longevity of one’s parents. It is not unusual that people stay up the entire night, lighting up lanterns and setting off firecrackers, which drives off the beast Nian and other bad spirits.
Some families hold religious ceremonies after midnight. The ceremonies often end by igniting a long string of firecrackers to welcome the New Year.
On New Year’s Day people first of all honor their ancestors and pay tribute to various deities. Younger members of the family must make a New Year’s call to members of the older generations. Then people visit their friends and greet each other to be prosperous in the New Year. It is an opportune moment to reach reconciliation, so that old scores can be settled with the passing of the old year.
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