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What is “小年” in China?

a lunar year, Chinese New Year, learning Chinese

lunar year (小年, xiǎo nián), usually a week before the lunar New Year, falls on Feb 1 this year. It is also known as the Festival of the Kitchen God, the deity who oversees the moral character of each household.

"小年"通常在农历新年前一周左右,今年是在2月1日,也是年前的"祭灶日"。传说中,灶王爷会监督着每家每户的善恶。

Here are six things you should know about the Little New Year, another sign of the start of spring.

下面是"小年"的六种民间习俗,"小年"也预示着春季的开始。

Offer sacrifices to Kitchen God

祭灶王

In one of the most distinctive traditions of the Little New Year is the burning of a paper image of the Kitchen God, dispatching the god's spirit to Heaven to report on the family's conduct over the past year. The Kitchen God is then welcomed back by to the home through the pasting of a new paper image of him beside the stove. From this vantage point, the Kitchen God will oversee and protect the household for another year.

"小年"最具特色的风俗就是"祭灶王",具体来讲就是将旧的灶王像烧掉,送"灶王"上天禀报这家人过去一年的善恶。大年三十的晚上,要在灶台旁贴一张新的灶王像,也就是"接灶"。这样,来年"灶王爷"就能继续监督并庇佑这一家人。

Most of the offerings are sweets of various varieties. It is thought that this will seal the Kitchen God's mouth and encourage him to only say good things about the family when he ascends to heaven to make his report.

人们还会在祭灶时给灶王爷摆上多种甜点做贡品,认为这会堵住灶王爷的嘴,让他上天汇报时只说好话。

House cleaning

扫尘土

Between Laba Festival and the lunar year, families throughout China undertake a thorough house cleaning, sweeping out the old in preparation for the New Year. 

从腊八到小年这段时间,中国大部分家庭都会彻底清扫房屋,"辞旧迎新"。

According to Chinese folk beliefs, during the last month of the year ghosts and deities must choose either to return to Heaven or to stay on Earth. It is believed that in order to ensure the ghosts and deities' timely departure people must thoroughly clean both their persons and their dwellings, down to every last drawer and cupboard.

根据中国民间习俗,鬼魂和神灵都要在腊月选择返回天上还是留在人间。为了保证"他们"及时离开,人们必须彻底进行清扫,包括个人卫生和住所,抽屉和碗柜的犄角旮旯也都要打扫干净。

Eat Guandong candy

吃关东糖

Guandong candy, a sticky treat made out of glutinous millet and sprouted wheat, is a traditional snack that Chinese people eat on the Festival of the Kitchen God.

关东糖是用麦芽、小米熬制而成,是人们在小年吃的传统小吃。

Paste paper-cuts to windows

贴窗花

In the Little New Year, old couplets and paper-cuts from the previous Spring Festival are taken down, and new window decorations, New Year's posters, and auspicious decorations are pasted up.

过小年时,要把去年春节贴的春联和窗花取下,贴上新的窗花、年画,和各种大吉大利的装饰品。

Bath and hair-cut

沐浴理发

As the old Chinese saying goes, whether they're rich or poor, people often have a haircut before the Spring Festival. The activity of taking bath and haircut is often taken on the Little New Year.

民间有"有钱没钱,剃头过年"的说法。"小年"时人们常要沐浴理发。

Preparations for Spring Festival

办年货

People start to stock up necessary provisions for the Spring Festival since the Little New Year. Everything needed to make offerings to the ancestors, entertain guests, and feed the family over the long holiday must be purchased in advance.

从小年开始,人们就要为过年置办了,包括给祖先的贡品、招待客人的用品,还有过年期间一家人的吃食都要提前买好。

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2016-06-21

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