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Dos and don’ts on Chinese Xiaonian

chinese festival, chinese culture

Traditionally, Xiaonian (小年, xiǎo nián) is an important time for people to give sacrifices to the Kitchen God, the most important of a plethora of Chinese domestic gods that protect the hearth and family. It falls on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month in the northern China, while the 24th day in the southern China. 

传统上,小年是重要的节日,通常在这一天献祭灶神。灶神是中国种类繁多的神灵中保护健康和家庭的神。在北方,小年是在农历十二月廿三,而在南方是十二月廿四。

Besides, don't forget to clean your home. Sweeping the dust means wiping away the old days and welcoming a new start. Now, the last thing for you to do is to wait for the coming Spring Festival!

此外,别忘了打扫房间。扫尘寓意辞旧迎新,然后等着春节的到来。

1. Paste up/stick spring couplets/scrolls 贴春联

Chinese characters that are auspicious for the coming year are generally written on two pieces of red paper with ink and a brush, and glued by the sides of the doors.

春联通常是成对张贴,因为双数在中国文化中是好运和吉祥的象征。像所有武功秘籍一样,家家户户过年的基本功——贴春联也有一套口诀:人朝门立,右手为上,左手为下。这句话意思是对联的出句应贴在右手边(即门的左边),对句应贴在左手边(即门的右边)。春联的上下联张贴的位置不应太高或太低,一般应以门楣的高低为准。嗯,这套秘籍你掌握了没?

2. Paste the character of fu 贴福字 

The character fu, or "happiness" is usually written on red diamond-shaped posters. They are usually stuck upside down on the doors. This is because the Chinese character dao (upside down) has the same sound as another dao, which means "arrive". Placing fu upside down symbolizes the arrival of happiness.

"福"不仅代表着福气、福运,更代表着福。写在红纸上的"福"字表达了中国人内心对幸福的向往。大家印象中"福"字一般都是倒着贴,谐音意为"福到"了。但是福字一定要倒着贴吗?民俗专家表示,按照规范的民俗讲究,大门上的福字必须是正贴,象征"迎福"和"纳福"之意,而且大门是家庭的出入口,是一种庄重的地方,所贴的福字,须端庄大方,所以要正贴。而室内的地方比如柜子、米缸等等就可以倒贴福字。

3. Set off fireworks/ firecrackers 放烟花/鞭炮

Chinese people traditionally set off fireworks during Spring Festival, in the belief that this helps scare off the Nian and brings good fortune at the beginning of the year and good luck throughout the year.

传说中,烟花爆竹最开始是用来驱赶"年"这头怪兽的。而现在放烟花、点鞭炮主要是为了增加节日气氛,让年味更浓。想象一下,除夕夜,四处都被烟花的闪闪光芒映亮,鞭炮声震耳欲聋。

4. Give Spring Festival greetings 拜年

It's important that you pay relatives and friends a new year's call during the holiday. This is done at people's homes from New Year's Day to the 15th day, or the Lantern Festival. People give each other best wishes and gifts. This is also a time for the younger generation to bow or kowtow to the elders for health, good fortune, work, and so on and to get a red packet in return.

拜年一般是家长带着家里的晚辈去拜见亲戚、朋友和长辈。有的地方还会让晚辈跪下给老人磕头,表达恭敬和祝福之意。传统的拜年手势男女有别。标准的男子作揖姿势是右手成拳,左手包住。因为右手是攻击手,要包住以示善意。女子则相反,但女子不抱拳,只压手。快看上图的小朋友姿势,多么标准,不要吝啬,给他10分!

5. Lucky money/red envelope 压岁钱/红包

For many young people, Chinese new year is just as much about lucky money — money in red envelopes traditionally given to children. On the Chinese mainland, kids get red envelopes at home from their parents and relatives. In Hong Kong, it is also customary to give Lai See (利是), a gift of money, to anyone in your personal service, such as nannies and cleaners.

一提起"红包"很多人现在想起的都是微信红包。但是红包的鼻祖可是大家喜闻乐见的春节压岁钱啊。为什么钱要放在红包里呢?因为中国人认为红色代表红红火火、生活幸福。红包也包含了长辈对晚辈的祝福和期待。在香港,不止小孩会拿到红包,只要为你服务的人,都可以给TA一个红包,不过人家把这个叫"利是"。

6. New Year taboos 过年禁忌

Words can reflect New Year taboos. People tend to, for example, avoid negative words, such as "failing", "dying", and "illness" during New Year's celebrations. Breaking a dish is another taboo in some places, because it implies that you will not have a thing to eat. 

过年虽然是一个放松的时候,但是也不是百无禁忌。首先一点就是语言上忌讳。过年的时候像"死"、"失败"、"病"这样比较晦气的话不能说 。打破碗碟也是忌讳。如果不小心打破了,在场的人必须以迅雷不及掩耳盗铃儿响叮当之势,说上两句吉祥的顺口溜,如"岁(碎)岁平安","打发(大发,发财之意)"等来弥补。

People do not carry the garbage out or clean the house on New Year's Day or for the rest of the Spring Festival holiday, for fear of sweeping away good luck.

很多地方过年的时候不能扫地,或者扫地时只能往屋内扫,不能往屋外扫,因为这样会把"财气"扫出去。春节期间也不能扔垃圾,因为同样有可能扔掉"财运"。但是现在,家里大鱼大肉吃顿年夜饭就会有很多垃圾,更别提从初一到十五,人来客往,无数顿好吃的,这么多垃圾放在家里一直到正月十五也是醉了。对这些禁忌,大家随意啦~

People usually get a haircut before the lunar new year's eve because it is said that getting one's hair cut in the first lunar month puts a curse on one's maternal uncles. 

春节期间也忌讳剃头。事实上整个正月都忌讳剃头,因为剃头的话会"死舅舅"。这个习俗据说来源于清朝。满清入关要求所有男子剃掉前额的头发,在脑后扎一条辫子。当时许多人把遵从传统习惯和怀念明朝的情感结合起来,约定每到正月里大家都不剃头,并将这个行动定名为"思旧",意思是"思念过去的历史"。但随着时间的流逝,口耳相传,以讹传讹,"思旧"的谐音附会成了"死舅",于是有了流传至今的民俗。

2016-06-24

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