The Spring Festival is an ancient tradition in Chinese culture, celebrating the end of winter and the start of the planting season. Occurring on the first day of the first lunar month, it is accompanied by upbeat festivities and life-affirming rituals, from eating special delicacies to decorating houses with distinctive symbols.
Photo courtesy of Ivan Walsh.
Here are three of the top Spring Festivals In China.
Dumpling is the name of the game in the Chinese capital during Spring Festival, which is called â€œboiled cakeâ€ in the northern regions of the country. Dumpling is usually eaten for five days straight from the first to the fifth day of the first lunar month, in a tradition called â€œBreaking Five Daysâ€, and house guests are treated to this meal. The streets of Beijing are heavily decorated from the last lunar month of the previous year to the first lunar month of the next, while family members visit friends and relatives. On New Yearâ€™s Eve itself, fireworks are lit to scare off demons, which may otherwise bring malice in the coming year. The place to be during this time is the Temple Fair in Grand View Gardens, which attracts thousands of people with its rabbit-themed dÃ©cor, traditional musical concerts and a wide variety of food stalls. Look out especially for the Dragon Kettles, humongous broth holders used for serving noodles. To be close to the Temple Fair, you can book your lodgings at the Grand Metropark Yuantong Hotel.
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As the financial capital of China, â€œFortune God Greetingsâ€ are very popular during the fifth day of the first lunar month in Shanghai, where the God of Fortune is welcomed back to peopleâ€™s homes after his visit to heaven. Because the Chinese word for â€œcarpâ€ sounds similar to the word for â€œprofitsâ€, live carp are offered to the deity for sacrifice. Families also begin cleaning their homes, buying new clothes and handing out gifts of money in red envelopes to younger relatives. Finally, households traditionally post Spring Festival couplets on the door, which are vertically written in two parts and with specific rules of composition.
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Because of a firecracker ban by city officials, Guangzhou merchants instead sell blossoming flowers expertly arranged to resemble images and figures.Â Peach blossoms and peonies are big sellers in the city because of their rich colours and association with longevity, while tangerine trees are also a popular purchase among local residentsÂ during this time of year. Well-known flower markets include Xi Hu on Jiao Yu Road and Li Wan on Li Wan Road. Lion dances, where dancers gracefully parade a mock-dragon while accompanied by drummers, move from shop to shop in order to ward off malicious spirits. Families flock to popular shopping districts like Shangxiajiu Street to stock up on New Year’s dinner and Spring Festival snacks, such as glutinous rice cakes and oil-fried dumplings. Family members who work in other Chinese cities all travel home to be with their loved ones, as this important period is usually an occasion for reunions. Guangdong Victory Hotel is less than a kilometre away from Shangxiajiu Street, a great place to stay while enjoying the delicacies sold during this holiday.
The Chinese New Year will occur on February 3, 2011 (the Year of the Rabbit) and Spring Festival Golden Week will last from February 2 to 8. Expect almost half of all banks to be closed during this period, with hotel and travel reservations fully booked early on. While Spring Festival is a time for most families to come together to enjoy a meal at home, throngs of attendees will flock to major events within city centres.